Hepatitis B and liver cancer
Infection with hepatitis B and C are the biggest known risk factors for developing primary liver cancer in Australia.
People diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B are at greater risk of disease complications if they are over 35 years of age, as their immune system can cause inflammation in the liver, which can cause liver damage. There are several disease stages and over time, the liver damage may become more severe, even though affected people may continue to feel well and may not be aware that this is happening until life-threatening complications develop.
Over 80% of primary liver cancer worldwide is related to the effects of chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infections. People with these infections have a 20 – 100 times increased risk of developing primary liver cancer compared to those without these infections. Primary liver cancer prevalence is highest in South East Asia and Africa. Hepatitis B is the most common cause of primary liver cancer worldwide and almost a third of all people with chronic hepatitis B infection live in China.
To reduce the spread of hepatitis B and the incidence of primary liver cancer, it is recommended that all at-risk people receive a vaccination against the virus.