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      Global Burden of Aflatoxin-Induced Hepatocellular Carcinoma: A Risk Assessment

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          Abstract

          Background

          Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or liver cancer, is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with prevalence 16–32 times higher in developing countries than in developed countries. Aflatoxin, a contaminant produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus in maize and nuts, is a known human liver carcinogen.

          Objectives

          We sought to determine the global burden of HCC attributable to aflatoxin exposure.

          Methods

          We conducted a quantitative cancer risk assessment, for which we collected global data on food-borne aflatoxin levels, consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated foods, and hepatitis B virus (HBV) prevalence. We calculated the cancer potency of aflatoxin for HBV-postive and HBV-negative individuals, as well as the uncertainty in all variables, to estimate the global burden of aflatoxin-related HCC.

          Results

          Of the 550,000–600,000 new HCC cases worldwide each year, about 25,200–155,000 may be attributable to aflatoxin exposure. Most cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and China where populations suffer from both high HBV prevalence and largely uncontrolled aflatoxin exposure in food.

          Conclusions

          Aflatoxin may play a causative role in 4.6–28.2% of all global HCC cases.

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          Most cited references 81

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          Chronic hepatitis B virus infection in Asian countries.

          Of the estimated 50 million new cases of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection diagnosed annually, 5-10% of adults and up to 90% of infants will become chronically infected, 75% of these in Asia where hepatitis B is the leading cause of chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In Indonesia, 4.6% of the population was positive for HBsAg in 1994 and of these, 21% were positive for HBeAg and 73% for anti-HBe; 44% and 45% of Indonesian patients with cirrhosis and HCC, respectively, were HBsAg positive. In the Philippines, there appear to be two types of age-specific HBsAg prevalence, suggesting different modes of transmission. In Thailand, 8-10% of males and 6-8% of females are HBsAg positive, with HBsAg also found in 30% of patients with cirrhosis and 50-75% of those with HCC. In Taiwan, 75-80% of patients with chronic liver disease are HBsAg positive, and HBsAg is found in 34% and 72% of patients with cirrhosis and HCC, respectively. In China, 73% of patients with chronic hepatitis and 78% and 71% of those with cirrhosis and HCC, respectively, are HBsAg positive. In Singapore, the prevalence of HBsAg has dropped since the introduction of HBV vaccination and the HBsAg seroprevalence of unvaccinated individuals over 5 years of age is 4.5%. In Malaysia, 5.24% of healthy volunteers, with a mean age of 34 years, were positive for HBsAg in 1997. In the highly endemic countries in Asia, the majority of infections are contracted postnatally or perinatally. Three phases of chronic HBV infection are recognized: phase 1 patients are HBeAg positive with high levels of virus in the serum and minimal hepatic inflammation; phase 2 patients have intermittent or continuous hepatitis of varying degrees of severity; phase 3 is the inactive phase during which viral concentrations are low and there is minimal inflammatory activity in the liver. In general, patients who clear HBeAg have a better prognosis than patients who remain HBeAg-positive for prolonged periods of time. The outcome after anti-HBe seroconversion depends on the degree of pre-existing liver damage and any subsequent HBV reactivation. Without pre-existing cirrhosis, there may be only slight fibrosis or mild chronic hepatitis, but with pre-existing cirrhosis, further complications may ensue. HBsAg-negative chronic hepatitis B is a phase of chronic HBV infection during which a mutation arises resulting in the inability of the virus to produce HBeAg. Such patients tend to have more severe liver disease and run a more rapidly progressive course. The annual probability of developing cirrhosis varies from 0.1 to 1.0% depending on the duration of HBV replication, the severity of disease and the presence of concomitant infections or drugs. The annual incidence of hepatic decompensation in HBV-related cirrhosis varies from 2 to 10% and in these patients the 5-year survival rate drops dramatically to 14-35%. The annual risk of developing HCC in patients with cirrhosis varies between 1 and 6%; the overall reported annual detection rate of HCC in surveillance studies, which included individuals with chronic hepatitis B and cirrhosis, is 0.8-4.1%. Chronic hepatitis B is not a static disease and the natural history of the disease is affected by both viral and host factors. The prognosis is poor with decompensated cirrhosis and effective treatment options are limited. Prevention of HBV infection thorough vaccination is still, therefore, the best strategy for decreasing the incidence of hepatitis B-associated cirrhosis and HCC.
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            The Gambia Liver Cancer Study: Infection with hepatitis B and C and the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in West Africa.

            Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common cancer in The Gambia. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is endemic, with 15% to 20% of the population being chronic carriers, whereas hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence is low. We recruited 216 incident cases of HCC and 408 controls from three sites. HBV carriage was present in 61% (129/211) of HCC patients and 16% (64/402) of controls, whereas 19% (36/191) of HCC patients were HCV seropositive compared with 3% (11/382) of controls. HCC patients with HCV were notably older and were more likely to be female than those with HBV. Increased HCC risk was strongly associated with chronic HBV (odds ratio, 16.7; 95% CI, 9.7-28.7), HCV (16.7; 6.9-40.1), and dual infection (35.3; 3.9-323). We interpret the additive nature of risk with coinfection as representative of HBV and HCV acting primarily through shared steps in the multistage process of hepatocarcinogenesis. HCV infection was not observed among younger participants, suggesting a possible cohort effect. Reasons for the striking age and gender differences in HCC associated with HBV compared with HCV are unclear, but transmission patterns and age at exposure may be factors. In conclusion, in a standardized evaluation of well-characterized study participants from The Gambia, most cases of HCC are attributable to HBV (57%), but HCV adds a significant fraction (20%), especially among older patients and females. If HCV transmission is not perpetuated in future cohorts, focusing available resources on HB vaccination efforts could greatly ameliorate a major cause of cancer death in sub-Saharan Africa.
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              Seroprevalence of human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B and C viruses and syphilis infections among blood donors at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

              Background According to the latest Tanzanian National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) report a total of 147,271 individuals donated blood during the year 2002. However, blood safety remains an issue of major concern in transfusion medicine in Tanzania where national blood transfusion services and policies, appropriate infrastructure, trained personnel and financial resources are inadequate. Most of the donated blood is screened for HIV alone. Methods We determined among blood donors at Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), the seroprevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and syphilis by donor type, sex and age and to determine association, if any, in the occurrence of the pathogens. The sample included 1599 consecutive donors, 1424(89.1%) males and 175 (10.9%) females, who donated blood between April 2004 and May, 2005. Most of them 1125 (70.4%) were replacement donors and a few 474 (29.6%) voluntary donors. Their age (in years) ranged from 16 to 69, and most (72.2%) were between 20–39 years. Results Two hundred and fifty four (15.9%) of the donated blood had serological evidence of infection with at least one pathogen and 28 (1.8%) had multiple infections. The current seroprevalence of HIV, HBsAg, HCV and syphilis among blood donors at MNH in Dar es Salaam was found to be 3.8%, 8.8%, 1.5% and 4.7%, respectively. Respective seroprevalences among HIV seronegative blood donors were 8.7% for HBV, 1.6% for HCV and 4.6% for syphilis. The differences in the prevalence of HIV and syphilis infections between replacement and voluntary donors were statistically significant (P < 0.05). Syphilis was the only infection that occurred more frequently among HIV infected (12.1%) than non-infected (4.6%) blood donors (P < 0.05), and whose prevalence increased with age (X2 = 58.5 df = 5, P < 0.001). There were no significant sex differences in the occurrence of pathogens. Finally, there were significant associations in the occurrence of HBsAg and syphilis (OR = 2.2, 95% CI 1.1.-4.2) and HIV and syphilis (OR = 2.2, 95% CI 1.0–5.3). Conclusion The high (15.9%) seroprevalence of blood-borne infections in blood donated at MNH calls for routine screening of blood donors for HBV, HCV, HIV and syphilis and for strict selection criteria of donors, with emphasis on getting young voluntary donors and for establishment of strict guidelines for blood transfusions.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Environ Health Perspect
                Environmental Health Perspectives
                National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
                0091-6765
                1552-9924
                June 2010
                19 February 2010
                : 118
                : 6
                : 818-824
                Affiliations
                Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
                Author notes
                Address correspondence to F. Wu, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, 100 Technology Dr., Rm 560, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 USA. Telephone: (412) 624-1306. Fax: (412) 624-3040. E-mail: few8@ 123456pitt.edu
                Article
                ehp-118-818
                10.1289/ehp.0901388
                2898859
                20172840
                This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article's original DOI.
                Categories
                Research

                Public health

                aflatoxin, hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatitis, risk assessment, global disease burden

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