More people are contracting liver cancer every year, with incidences increasing over some +75% between 1990 and 2015. It is one of the leading causes of cancer mortality, according to a new report from the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2015. In 2015, liver cancer was the sixth most common incident cancer worldwide and the fourth most common cause of cancer death. Globally, 854,000 incident cases of liver cancer and 810,000 deaths occurred. Overall, Hepatitis B (HBV) and alcohol were the most common causes of death from liver cancer in 2015, causing 33% and 30%, respectively, of global mortality from the disease. The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) was blamed for about 21% of incidents. Alcohol, perhaps not surprisingly, made the smallest contribution to death from liver cancer in North Africa and the Middle East but was the greatest contributor to liver cancer death in Eastern Europe, where it caused over half of all deaths from the disease in 2015. Researchers are hoping the results of their study will be useful in reducing the number of people that suffer from liver cancer, as they point out most causes of liver cancer are preventable through vaccination, antiviral treatment, safe blood transfusion and injection practices, as well as interventions to reduce excessive alcohol use. HBV can be prevented via a simple vaccine that has proven to be about 95% effective. Treatments are available to slow the progression of a chronic HBV infection, but there is no cure. There are some treatments available for HCV that can cure the disease in up to 97% of cases. However, HCV infections have been rising at a disturbing rate, tripling between the years 2010 and 2015. In fact, it is considered an epidemic. It is suspected that there are, at present, more than 5 million people in the United States that are infected with Hepatitis C, and perhaps as many as 200 million around the world. This makes it one of the greatest public health threats faced in this century. About half of HCV infections can be traced to injection drug use. As with HIV, the sharing of contaminated needles and syringes increases the chance of infection dramatically. Injection drug use has seen a massive surge amid the U.S. opioid epidemic. The new infections are appearing most frequently among young people who transition from taking prescription pills to injecting heroin, which has become cheaper and more easily available. Baby Boomers, however, have the highest infection rate. People born between the 1960s and 1980s are five times more likely to have HCV than other adults. This is attributed to the fact that there was no HCV blood test available before 1992, meaning many victims contracted the disease via blood transfusions. However, virtually any source of blood or blood products seems to be capable of carrying the virus, even if the source is indirect – like a used razor, for example. Medical professionals aren’t clear on what the direct correlation is between Hepatitis infections and the increased risk for liver cancer. For the general population, screening for liver cancer hasn’t been proved to reduce the risk of dying of liver cancer, so it isn’t generally recommended. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases recommends liver cancer screening for those thought to have a high risk. (Sources: MedScape, Mayo Clinic, Healio)