Hepatitis C May Increase Risk for Kidney Cancer

DETROIT – Physicians at Henry Ford Hospital have found that chronic hepatitis C, an inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection, may increase the risk for kidney cancer.

Using administrative data from Henry Ford Health System, physicians found that 4.3 percent of kidney cancer cases diagnosed between 1997 and 2007, tested positive for the hepatitis C virus antibody (anti-HCV). This compares to approximately 1.6 percent of the U.S. population who test positive.

“We next looked at the incidence of renal cell carcinoma among hepatitis C-infected patients over a 10 year period and found that it was significantly higher than among uninfected individuals,” says Stuart C. Gordon, MD, director of hepatology at Henry Ford Hospital and lead author of a study presented today at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases’ annual meeting in San Francisco.

More than 4 million Americans have hepatitis C, which can cause cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. It is also one of the most common indications for liver transplants, and causes an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 deaths annually. The CDC estimates yearly deaths from hepatitis C will increase to 38,000 by 2010. Among the non-liver manifestations of hepatitis C include non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and various kidney disorders.

The hepatitis C virus is spread through blood-to-blood contact. Many patients are entirely asymptomatic yet may have had the disease for several decades. While the liver consequences of this virus are well recognized, the potential non-hepatic manifestations of the disease are less well understood. A simple blood test may help physicians determine if a patient has hepatitis C. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Gordon explains that hepatitis C is curable in more than 50 percent of cases as newer and better treatment regimens are being developed. Henry Ford is participating in a number of these trials.