New study finds HBV-infected men more likely to develop liver cancer

A team of researchers from Seoul National University in Korea recently found a novel mutation in the hepatitis B virus that appears only in men and makes men more susceptible to the development of liver cancer.

The study may explain why men are five times more likely to develop liver cancer as a result of an HBV-infection than their female counterparts and may also account for the gender disparity of hepatocellular carcinoma. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Researchers analyzed data and serum samples from 292 patients with chronic HBV infections who regularly visited one of three hospitals in Korea between 2003 and 2005. The gene mutation found, classified as the W4P/R mutation, is associated with a higher risk of severe liver disease, liver cancer and cirrhosis. The mutation was found exclusively in men.

The researchers who conducted the study believe the assay they developed may be a diagnostic tool for detecting the progression of HBV infections to cirrhosis and liver cancer. More research using a larger sample base must be conducted to ensure the validity of the findings.

HBV infections are prevalent among 350 million people in the world and lead to 600,000 deaths annually. Approximately 3,000 people in the U.S. die annually from HBV-stemmed hepatocellular cancer or chronic liver disease.