A new study found that daily aspirin therapy was significantly associated with a reduced risk in hepatitis B virus‐related liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver. HBV can be contracted through contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluid, and the infection can either be acute or chronic.
According to AASLD’s Guidelines for Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis B, an estimated 240 million people worldwide have chronic HBV, and the highest prevalence of the virus is in Africa and Asia.
Death from HBV is commonly due to the development of cirrhosis (scaring of healthy liver tissue) or hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer).
Past research suggests that daily aspirin therapy — which is often prescribed to prevent cardiovascular disease — may also prevent the development of cancer.
However, clinical evidence is lacking for the effectiveness of aspirin therapy in preventing HBV‐related liver cancer.
Researchers in the study conducted a nationwide study to determine if aspirin therapy could, indeed, reduce liver cancer risk.
“Liver cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide, and HBV is the most prevalent risk factor in our region, says Teng‐Yu Lee, a researcher in the study.
“HBV‐related liver cancer is therefore a major public health issue with a severe socioeconomic impact.”
Although current antiviral medicines such as nucleos(t)ide analogue therapy could significantly reduce liver cancer risk, Dr. Lee notes these therapies do not eliminate the risk.
Additionally, Dr. Lee says most HBV carriers are not indicated for antiviral therapy, so another effective way of reducing liver cancer risk needs to be developed.
The researchers retrieved medical records from the National Health Insurance Research Database between 1998 and 2012.
They screened records of 204,507 patients with chronic hepatitis B, and excluded patients with other forms of infectious hepatitis.
Cumulative incidence of liver cancer in the group treated with aspirin therapy was significantly lower than that in the untreated group in five years.
The researchers found aspirin therapy was independently associated with reduced liver cancer risk. Sensitivity subgroup analyses also verified this association.
Older age, male gender, cirrhosis and diabetes also were independently associated with an increased risk, but nucleos(t)ide analogue or statin use was associated with a decreased risk.
“For effectively preventing HBV‐related liver cancer, the findings of this study may help hepatologists treat patients with chronic HBV infection in the future, particularly for those who are not indicated for antiviral therapy. We are pursuing prospective investigations for further confirming the findings,” says Dr. Lee.