According to the results of a recent study published in Hepatology, individuals with the Hepatitis C virus have a significantly increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and multiple myeloma.
Lymphomas are a malignancy in which cancerous cells arise from the cells of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a drainage system within the body. Two of the primary functions of the lymph system are to maintain fluid balance and to produce cells (called lymphocytes) that fight infection. Lymphomas are divided into two types, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) includes a large group of various types of cancers of the lymph and immune system. In general, NHL can be further divided into those that are slowly growing and those that progress rapidly. These subtypes of NHL may behave and respond differently to treatment, so the subtype is often the basis for the type of treatment to be used. Current treatment for NHL may include chemotherapy and in some cases radiation.
In this recent study, the goal was to determine the association between viral hepatitis C infection (HCV) and NHL, multiple myeloma (MM), thyroid cancer, acute lymphatic lymphoma (ALL), chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL), and Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL). Study participants included 27,150 Swedish patients diagnosed with HCV between 1990 and 2000. A national registry was created to document all malignancies diagnosed within the group. Patients were also categorized based on the presumed time of HCV infection.
Overall, patients eligible for statistical analysis after 10 years included 20 patients who developed NHL, 7 who developed MM, 5 who developed thyroid cancer, 4 who developed CLL, 1 who developed ALL and 1 who developed HL. Extensive analysis revealed that the risk of developing NHL and MM was significantly increased among patients with HCV. The association was not significant in thyroid cancer or CLL.
Researchers concluded that although delayed diagnosis of HCV may have underestimated the risk, the results of this study indicate that patients with HCV have a significantly increased risk of NHL and MM. Patients are encouraged to speak to their physician regarding their risk factors and appropriate disease screening and surveillance.
Reference: Duberg A, Nordstom M, Torner A, et al. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Other Nonhepatic Malignancies in Swedish Patients with Hepatitis C Virus Infection. Hepatology. 2005;41: 652-659.