Experts call for urgent action on liver cancer

Leading health experts are warning that rates of liver cancer will soar over the next decade if urgent action isn’t taken to curb the leading cause of the disease, viral hepatitis. They are gathered in Auckland to issue a public statement calling on government, health departments and others to take immediate action.

“… A substantial scaling up of resources and efforts is needed to stop these epidemics in their tracks – otherwise liver cancer will continue to be among the fastest increasing causes of cancer death in Australia and New Zealand,” the ‘Auckland Statement’ reads.

Viral hepatitis is the No.1 cause of demand for liver transplants in Australia and NZ. Deaths from hepatitis-related liver cancer are growing at the same pace as deaths from melanoma and are likely to treble by 2030.

More than half a million people in Australia and New Zealand are thought to be living with chronic hepatitis B or C infections. These people may currently have no symptoms but without treatment, can progress to liver cancer or failure.

The “Auckland Statement”, issued by the 8th Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference, has at its core an ambitious goal to halve the rate of new hepatitis C infections by 2016. According to the statement, a  focus on providing sterile injecting for equipment users of intravenous drugs will be critical to preventing the spread of viral hepatitis, which can be transmitted by blood to blood contact.

A webcast of the release of can be viewed here.

The conference and associated statement have received wide media coverage, with examples including.

Newstalk ZB: Calls for urgent action to stop liver cancer deaths     Radio NZ: Liver cancer rates expected to rise

NZ Herald: Liver-cancer surge spurs cash plea     3 News: Calls to cut soaring liver cancer rates (and Fairfax papers): ‘Boost needed’ in fight against hepatitis