Testing and Access to Care Are Key to Reversing Rising Liver Cancer Incidence and Mortality Rates

Mar 09, 2016, 17:36 ET from American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 9, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, March 9, 2016, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer. John Ward, MD, Director of CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis noted the progress we are making against cancer overall, but he also stated that a rapidly increasing number of Americans are developing and dying from liver cancer. Liver cancer increased 72 percent between 2003 and 2012 and the rate of deaths due to liver cancer is increasing faster than any other type of cancer.

The report shows that liver cancer-related death rates were highest among populations most commonly diagnosed with hepatitis C virus (HCV) or hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. As AASLD is the leading medical organization solely focused on the liver, we are well aware of this fact and that these primary causes of liver cancer are preventable and treatable.

According to Dr. Ward's statement, with which we completely agree, "We have the tools we need to reverse this alarming trend [increasing number of Americans dying from liver cancer] - vaccination for hepatitis B, and testing and treatment for hepatitis B and C. But we urgently need to do more to ensure that these tools are available to and used by everyone who needs them."

We believe that appropriate testing and screening for viral hepatitis and increased access to care are the correct strategies for reducing liver cancer incidence and mortality rates. For HCV, we endorse and advocate a one-time age-based testing as well as additional testing based on risk. In addition to HBV vaccination which is now part of the infant vaccine schedule, AASLD recommends HBV testing for those groups who are disproportionately affected by the virus.

Once tested for and diagnosed with HCV, treatment using the recently discovered, developed, and FDA-approved direct acting antiviral therapies provides incredible cure rates. As the CDC report states, a little more than 20 percent of the most common liver cancers are attributed to HCV infection. Access to these therapies is a key component in eliminating a great proportion of liver cancer. According to AASLD's President Keith Lindor, MD, FAASLD, "In the past 25 years we have gone from identification to cure of the hepatitis C virus; now the onus is on us to make these life-saving therapies available to all of our patients who will benefit."

About the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases
AASLD is the leading medical organization for advancing the science and practice of hepatology. Founded by physicians in 1950, AASLD's vision is to prevent and cure liver diseases. Visit www.aasld.org for more information.

Media Contact: Gregory Bologna
Telephone: (703) 299-9766

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SOURCE American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)