Hepatitis C Virus Infection and the Risk of Cancer Among Elderly US Adults: A Registry-Based Case-Control Study

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection causes hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Associations with other cancers are not established. The authors systematically assessed associations between HCV infection and cancers in the US elderly population.

METHODS:

This was a registry-based case-control study using Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare data in US adults aged ≥66 years. Cases (n = 1,623,538) were patients who had first cancers identified in SEER registries (1993-2011). Controls (n = 200,000) were randomly selected, cancer-free individuals who were frequency-matched to cases on age, sex, race, and calendar year. Associations with HCV (documented by Medicare claims) were determined using logistic regression.

RESULTS:

HCV prevalence was higher in cases than in controls (0.7% vs 0.5%). HCV was positively associated with cancers of the liver (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 31.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 29.0-34.3), intrahepatic bile duct (aOR, 3.40; 95% CI, 2.52-4.58), extrahepatic bile duct (aOR, 1.90; 95% CI, 1.41-2.57), pancreas (aOR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.09-1.40), and anus (aOR, 1.97; 95% CI, 1.42-2.73); nonmelanoma nonepithelial skin cancer (aOR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.15-2.04); myelodysplastic syndrome (aOR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.33-1.83); and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (aOR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.34-1.84). Specific skin cancers associated with HCV were Merkel cell carcinoma (aOR, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.30-2.85) and appendageal skin cancers (aOR, 2.02; 95% CI, 1.29-3.16). Inverse associations were observed with uterine cancer (aOR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.51-0.80) and prostate cancer (aOR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.66-0.82). Associations were maintained in sensitivity analyses conducted among individuals without documented alcohol abuse, cirrhosis, or hepatitis B or human immunodeficiency virus infections and after adjustment for socioeconomic status. Associations of HCV with other cancers were not observed.

CONCLUSIONS:

HCV is associated with increased risk of cancers other than HCC in the US elderly population, notably bile duct cancers and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. These results support a possible etiologic role for HCV in an expanded group of cancers.

Chronic hepatitis C virus infection is a cause of hepatocellular carcinoma, but its associations with other cancers are uncertain. Nationally representative data from an elderly US population in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare–linked database indicates that hepatitis C virus is associated with increased risks of intrahepatic and extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

See also pages 1086-8.

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