October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month

Between 2004 and 2015, liver cancer incidence increased 46 percent in Michigan. As part of Liver Cancer Awareness Month, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) urges Michigan residents to learn about the leading causes of liver cancer and the steps they can take to reduce their risk.

“Liver cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths in Michigan,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS chief medical executive. “Early detection can help lower liver cancer risk. Talk to your healthcare provider about possible risk factors and hepatitis testing.”

Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C are leading causes of liver cancer, making up 65 percent of factors contributing to liver cancer incidence in the United States.

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted from person to person through contaminated blood or body fluids. HBV can spread from infected mothers to their infants at birth, through unprotected sex or through contact with blood or body fluids of a person who has the virus. In 2017, there were 1,237 newly reported diagnoses of chronic hepatitis B in Michigan.

Hepatitis B disproportionately affects Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). In Michigan, Asian Americans had the highest incidence of chronic hepatitis B from 2012 to 2017 compared to other racial or ethnic counterparts. In addition, AAPI have historically been the racial/ethnic group most affected by liver cancer.

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood-borne pathogen and is transmitted from person to person through the contaminated blood of an infected individual. In 2017, there were 12,062 newly reported cases of chronic hepatitis C in Michigan. In the United States, an estimated 3.5 million Americans are living with a hepatitis C infection, and persons born from 1945 to 1965 make up 75 percent of those cases. Only 50 percent of the 3.5 million Americans living with chronic hepatitis C infection, however, are aware of their current infection.

MDHHS urges persons born from 1945 to 1965 to lower their risk of liver damage and liver cancer by asking their healthcare provider for a hepatitis C blood test. MDHHS also recommends testing for persons with hepatitis C risk factors.

More recently, there has been increases in the rate of new hepatitis C infections related to injection drug use and young adults. The primary risk factor for HCV transmission is sharing needles, syringes or drug preparation equipment.

During Liver Cancer Awareness Month, take steps to lower your risk of liver cancer by:

– Identifying your risk for hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Take the CDC’s 5-minute online Hepatitis Risk Assessment tool: Cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment.

– Getting tested if you are at risk- ask your healthcare provider for the test.

– Protecting yourself and your loved ones from hepatitis B. Ask your healthcare provider for the hepatitis B vaccine.

– Talking to your doctor about treatment options if you are currently infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

– Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption.

For more information on viral hepatitis and testing and vaccination recommendations, visit Cdc.gov/hepatitis or Mi.gov/hepatitis. For more information on liver cancer and viral hepatitis, visit Cdc.gov/hepatitis/featuredtopics/livercancerandhepatitis.htm.

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