Study Debunks Association Between Hepatitis C, Prostate Cancer

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An analysis of NHANES data found no significant association between HCV infection and risk of prostate cancer, contrary to findings from previous research.

Marc Ganz, MD, MPH | Credit: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Marc Ganz, MD, MPH

Credit: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Although prior research has alluded to a heightened risk of prostate cancer among individuals with hepatitis C virus (HCV), an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data found no significant association between the 2.1

Results published in Cureus showed only age was positively correlated with the likelihood of prostate cancer, while HCV infection and other potential confounding variables exhibited no significant association.1

“Considering the plausible connection between HCV infection and prostate cancer, there exists a need for expanded research efforts to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the dynamic between these two conditions,” Marc Ganz, MD, MPH, medical student researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and colleagues wrote.1 “Existing research has yielded divergent results, with some studies suggesting an augmented risk of prostate cancer among patients with chronic HCV infection or no correlation at all, while others point toward a potential protective effect.”

Although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites age as the most common risk factor for prostate cancer, it also lists being African-American and having a family history of prostate cancer as other notable considerations. HCV is one of the leading causes of liver cancer and has further been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers, but its association with prostate cancer remains debated.2,3

To investigate the correlation between HCV infection and prostate cancer, investigators extracted information from the NHANES dataset encompassing the March 2017 - March 2020 period, focusing specifically on the “medical conditions” and “hepatitis” segments. Employing logistic regression analysis, investigators aimed to discern the connection between HCV infection and the prior occurrence of prostate cancer while factoring in variables such as weight, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, race, educational level, and marital status. The dependent variable of interest was the historical occurrence of prostate cancer, while the independent variable under consideration was hepatitis C.1

Investigators retrospectively examined data from 672 NHANES participants. Among the cohort, 61 individuals had a history of prostate cancer while 611 individuals did not. Among those with a history of prostate cancer, 46 (24.60%) were White, 42 (18.69%) were high school graduates or equivalent, and 94 (16.96%) were married.1

Further analysis revealed no significant association between HCV and prostate cancer (Odds ratio OR, 21.458; 95% CI, -87520.918 to 87563.834; P = 1.0). On the other hand, investigators noted age exhibited a significant correlation with prostate cancer (OR, 0.069; 95% CI, 0.021 to 0.118; P = 0.005), indicating that each incremental increase in age was linked with an increase in the odds of experiencing prostate cancer. However, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, race, education level, and marital status exhibited no substantial associations with prostate cancer.1

Despite the potential significance of these findings, investigators were also careful to note several potential limitations. These included but were not limited to the cross-sectional design of the NHANES dataset inherently impeding the establishment of a causal link between HCV infection and prostate cancer; the dependence on self-reported data for diagnosing HCV infection and prostate cancer introducing the potential for recall bias and inadvertent misclassification; and the possibility of other non-isolated dependent variables interfering with the findings.1

Still, investigators concluded: “In contrast to the varying outcomes of previous studies, the present analysis, grounded in NHANES data, has not unveiled a statistically significant connection between HCV infection and the likelihood of developing prostate cancer. This study thus enhances the ongoing discourse on the intricate interplay between HCV infection and the risk of prostate cancer.”

References:

  1. Ganz M, Alessandro C, Jacobs M, et al. Exploring the Relationship Between Hepatitis C Virus Infection and Prostate Cancer Risk: A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Analysis. Cureus 16(2): e54523. doi:10.7759/cureus.54523
  2. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Is at Risk for Prostate Cancer? Prostate Cancer. July 17, 2023. Accessed April 8, 2024. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/basic_info/risk_factors.htm
  3. Bramlet Blackburn, K. Hepatitis C and cancer: What to know. MD Anderson Cancer Center. April 4, 2018. Accessed April 8, 2024. https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/hepatitis-c-and-cancer--what-to-know.h00-159223356.html
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