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Hepatitis as a Risk Factor for Pancreatic Cancer

A number of odd or non-intuitive relationships between apparently unrelated variables and pancreatic cancer (ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas) are beginning to emerge – including ABO blood status, and now some forms of hepatitis.

In the World Journal of Gastroenterology from July 14, 2013, Chen and colleagues from the Southern Medical University, in Guangzhou, China report a meta-analysis based on a world review of the medical literature of the relationship between infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the hepatitis C virus (HCV) AND pancreatic cancer. Using their developed criteria, they found eight studies that were eligible for inclusion in their analysis pool.

The researchers found a small but statistically significant association between chronic HBV and HCV infections and the risk of developing adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. The odds ratio for a patient’s status of the presence of inactive hepatitis surface antigen (HBsAg) and for chronic hepatitis B exposure was 1.2 at a 95% confidence interval – with Chinese patients appearing even somewhat higher (1.3). And the odds ratio for past exposure to the hepatitis C virus was somewhat similar at 1.26. . The authors indicate that there is no evidence of publication bias in these associations.

It is not entirely clear what these findings mean. But finding association between pancreatic cancer and possible acute (or chronic?) triggers moves the science a bit further along the cutting edge of understanding.

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Dale O’Brien, MD