Did you know that hepatitis C virus infection and liver cancer are serious health problems that disproportionately affect African Americans? They are. But today, though there is no vaccine, we have prevention and treatment tools to fight this disease.
What is Hepatitis C?
Let me explain first what hepatitis C is. It is a serious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis C virus. The virus is usually spread when blood from a person infected with hepatitis C enters the body of someone who is not infected. Persons infected with this virus often have no symptoms while the virus silently attacks the liver causing inflammation and scarring. The liver injury worsens over time causing serious health problems, including liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Approximately 50 percent of liver cancer cases are related to hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C and the African American Community
According to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975 – 2012, during 2008 through 2012, non-Hispanic blacks ages 50 to 64 years (born 1955 – 1965) had higher rates of liver cancer than other ethnic groups. And, more non-Hispanic black men die from liver cancer at an earlier age (60 to 61 years) compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Overall, data continue to show higher rates of hepatitis C and increased liver cancer rates among individuals born from 1945–1965. People born during these years are six times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults.