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Hepatitis B strain may be causing liver cancer in men

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

A novel mutation in the hepatitis B virus could be causing increased rates of liver cancer in men, according to a new South Korean study. Originally published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, the study could help explain why men with HBV have such dramatically high rates of liver cancer and cirrhosis compared to women.

Liver cancer and hepatitis B
For the study, researchers conducted lab tests on serum samples from 292 patients who visited Korean hospitals between 2003 and 2005. In the past, a mutation of HBV known as W4P/R had been associated with liver disease. The researchers found that only men could be diagnosed with the mutated strain of the sexually transmitted disease, making them approximately five times more likely to have liver cancer or cirrhosis.

"This is the first mutation found that can explain the gender disparity in incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma," said Bum-Joon Kim, M.D., of Seoul National University, Korea, an author of the study.

The researchers believe that additional study could be helpful in diagnosing cirrhosis and liver cancer in men with the W4P/R mutation. The incidence of this gene mutation was strongly associated with higher rates of liver issues in men, though it did not exist in women at all. If caught early, these conditions could be more treatable and general health can be improved for those with this strain of HBV.

Hepatitis worldwide
Hepatitis is a very common STD in the U.S. and worldwide. According to the American Society for Microbiology, approximately 350 million people chronically have this condition across the globe, according to STD testing. The rates run from less than 1 percent of the population in the U.S. to about 10 percent in certain parts of Asia.

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by HBV. It can often cause serious liver problems, like cancer, though the prevalence of the condition has been difficult for scientists to fully understand. The above study brings researchers one step closer to identifying certain liver conditions in men before they evolve and become potentially life-threatening, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Many adults are able to fully recover from the disease and there is a vaccine available. For children, the disease can be much worse, and can pass congenitally. For those looking to become pregnant, an STD test can show whether or not the disease is present.

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