In an Italian case-control study with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) patients, researchers confirmed an increased risk for those positive for hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV). The findings suggest that treatment and preventive measures for HCV and HBV may decrease incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Case-control, or retrospective, studies are engineered to help determine if an exposure is associated with a disease or condition. They compare patients who have a disease with those who don’t, studying the frequency of exposures to risk factors in both groups.
The study, “Hepatitis B and C viruses and risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma: a case-control study in Italy,” was published in the journal Infectious Agents and Cancer.
HCV has consistently been associated to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with estimates suggesting that approximately 8 percent of NHL cases globally may be attributable to HCV. However, very few studies have investigated the possible role of another type of hepatitis viruses, the HBV infection, as a risk factor for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In this study, researchers investigated the relationship between HBV and HCV infections and the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. They used a case-control study from 1999 through 2011 in different areas of Italy. In total, the study included 571 cases of histologically confirmed NHLs and 1,004 cancer-free controls.
In both patients and control blood samples, researchers tested for the presence of HCV and HBV, using specific antibodies against both. Additionally, samples tested positive for anti-HCV were further evaluated for the presence of an additional marker of HCV, HCV’s acid nucleic RNA.
Researchers detected circulating HCV RNA in 63 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases (corresponding to 11.1 percent of the patients), while only 35 positive cases were found in control subjects (3.5 percent). Chronic HBV infection, denoted by positive cases of anti-HBV, was found in 3.7 percent of cases and 1.7 percent of controls. Moreover, a significantly increased association (more than twice as many) was also detected between B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and HBV.
This study results confirmed the well-established association between HCV infection and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As a result, preventive measures and HCV treatment are important when considering NHL. However, researchers found that only individuals with circulating HCV RNA were actually at increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This suggests that only persistent chronic HCV infection is associated with the disease. This study also suggests HBV infection involvement.
In conclusion, treatment and preventive measures for both HCV and HBV infection have the potential to decrease non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma incidence, particularly in areas where these infections are highly prevalent.