More Baby Boomers need to be screened for hepatitis C infection.
Despite the steady increase of liver cancer incidence in the United States in recent decades, data from 2015 indicates that less than 13 percent of individuals born between 1945 and 1965 are estimated to have undergone screening for hepatitis C virus (HCV).
The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, by Susan Vadaparampil, PhD, MPH, senior author, senior member and professor, Health Outcomes and Behavior Program, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida; Monica Kasting, PhD, lead author, postdoctoral fellow, Division of Population Science, Moffitt Cancer Center; Anna Giuliano, PhD, founding director of the Center for Infection Research in Cancer, Moffitt Cancer Center.
“In the United States, approximately one in 30 baby boomers are chronically infected with HCV,” said Vadaparampil. “Almost half of all cases of liver cancerin the United States are caused by HCV. Therefore, it is important to identify and treat people who have the virus in order to prevent cancer.”
“Hepatitis C is an interesting virus because people who develop a chronic infection remain asymptomatic for decades and don’t know they’re infected,” explained Kasting. “Most of the baby boomers who screen positive for HCV infection were infected over 30 years ago, before the virus was identified.”
Because over 75 percent of HCV-positive individuals were born between 1945 and 1965, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now recommend that baby boomers get screened for the virus. However, data from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicated that only 12 percent of baby boomers had been screened for HCV, Kasting explained. The researchers wanted to study if HCV screening rates had increased following the FDA approval of several well-tolerated and effective treatments for HCV infection.
Using NHIS data from 2013-2015, Kasting and colleagues analyzed HCV screening prevalence among four different age cohorts (born before 1945, born 1945-1965, born 1966-1985, and born after 1985). Participants were asked if they had ever had a blood test for hepatitis C. As the researchers were interested in assessing HCV screening in the general population, they excluded certain populations who were more likely to be screened for the virus, resulting in a total sample size of 85,210 participants.
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