NEWS | May 19, 2009

Projected surge in liver cancer among Asian American and Pacific Islanders

World Hepatitis Day brings awareness of liver cancer risk to carriers of hepatitis B virus


New liver cancer cases among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are expected to soar in coming years, the result of persistently higher rates of chronic hepatitis B, a leading cause of the disease, and population growth as projected by the US Census.

The UC Davis Cancer Center is working to address the disproportionate burden of liver cancer on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through research funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Such research is expected to yield important findings to reduce the unnecessary death rates for liver cancer among all people of color.

UC Davis Cancer Center also houses the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART), which is dedicated to addressing the unique, unusual and unnecessary cancer burden among Asian Americans.

A recent report from the Journal of Clinical Oncology determined that by 2030, the number of new liver cancer cases among Asian and Pacific Islanders will increase by 134 percent compared to an increase of 28 percent among non-Hispanic whites. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders most commonly get liver cancer through hepatitis B, which in these populations is typically passed from mother to baby during the birthing process. Symptoms do not typically appear until the infection becomes liver cancer, over a period of decades. The risk of liver cancer for those with hepatitis B is 100 times greater than it is for the general population. By contrast, liver cancer risk factors for non-Hispanic whites can be attributable to other factors such as hepatitis C infections.

World Hepatitis Day (May 19) and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the projected rise in liver cancer cases among Asians and Pacific Islanders and to highlight important information about the control of hepatitis B.

Chronic hepatitis B can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure and liver cancer. An estimated two million Americans are thought to be infected with hepatitis B. Liver cancer is a conspicuous cancer health disparity, being most common among Asian and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, and is least common among non-Hispanic whites.

About UC Davis Cancer Center:
Designated by the National Cancer Institute, UC Davis Cancer Center cares for 9,000 adults and children each year from throughout the Central Valley and inland Northern California. The center is dedicated to reducing cancer health disparities, enriching the lives of patients and their families, and supporting community members interested in learning more about cancer risks, prevention, early detection and research. For more information, visit

The Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART) is a cooperative agreement between the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the University of California, Davis. It is the first-ever national cancer awareness research and training infrastructure intended to address Asian American concerns. The overall mission of the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART) is to reduce cancer health disparities by conducting community-based participatory education, training, and research by, for, and with Asian Americans.