Liver cancer rate spikes

There should be more public education to help prevent viruses that lead to liver cancer, says a Central Alberta Aids Network spokesperson.

There should be more public education to help prevent viruses that lead to liver cancer, says a Central Alberta Aids Network spokesperson.

According to the federal government, hepatitis B is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases among travellers, Candice Berry, HIV prevention educator at CAANS, said on Wednesday.

She was responding to Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013, a report that states the rate of liver cancer tripled for Canadian men and doubled for women between 2000 and 2007.

Berry said in 2008, about 250,000 Canadians were living hepatitis C positive and 65 per cent of them didn’t know they had it. About five per cent of the population had hepatitis B at some point in their life.

“We have people come in and talk about hep B, hep C, HIV, as well as sexually-transmitted infections,” said Berry.

Both hepatitis B and C can live outside the body so there should be more public education on the viruses, she said.

“It’s all about sharing and using other people’s equipment, whether it’s nail clippers or drug equipment or tattooing or sex or travelling abroad.”

The Canadian Cancer Society report was done in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

The liver cancer rate for men is now 6.9 cases per 100,000 and 1.9 cases for women.

It will account for an estimated one per cent of all new cancer diagnoses and deaths in 2013, but it has a five-year survival rate of only 20 per cent.

In Canada, 1,000 deaths are expected this year.

In Alberta, more than 170 men are expected to be diagnosed with liver cancer in 2013 and nearly 130 will die. For women, 80 are expected to be diagnosed and about 60 will die.

“It’s one of the few cancers where we’re actually seeing a fairly alarming increase in incidents. It’s definitely one where the survivorship is still very low. Only one in five people who are diagnosed with liver cancer will survive beyond five years,” said Sarah Hawkins, public policy analyst.

But like many cancers, it’s largely preventable, she said.

The main risk factors for liver cancer are chronic hepatitis B and C infections.

“We do want to raise a bit more awareness about hepatitis B and C because there are people in Canada who don’t realize that they have these infections. Definitely increased knowledge would help reduce the risk of liver cancer.”

Heavy alcohol use, obesity, diabetes, smoking and other factors are also associated with a higher risk of liver cancer.

Recommendations from the report to lower the rising rate of liver cancer include raising awareness among about the risk factors for liver cancer, especially its links with hepatitis B and C, and how to get tested and treated for hepatitis infection if people belong to an at-risk group including newcomers to Canada if they come from parts of the world where hepatitis B or C or liver cancer are common.

The Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013 report also shows lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are the top four diagnosed cancers in Canada.

For men, prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Alberta and for women it’s breast cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

This year, an estimated 810 men in Alberta will die of lung cancer, 400 from colorectal cancer and 360 from prostate cancer. Among women, 730 are estimated to die of lung cancer, 400 from breast cancer, and 300 from colorectal cancer.

“In general for most of those cancers we are seeing reductions, not only in incidents but also mortality rates. People are surviving them. Fewer people are being diagnosed. So we have a lot of good news about those even though they continue to be the most predominate cancers,” Hawkins said.

An estimated 187,600 new cases of cancer and 75,500 deaths from cancer will occur in Canada in 2013. Of those, about 6,300 people will die of cancer in Alberta, and 16,200 new cases will be diagnosed.

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