Hepatitis B causes 80 percent of liver cancer,
leading to one in six of all cancer deaths in Singapore
Hepatitis B is an infectious illness caused by hepatitis B virus, which infects the liver and may cause inflammation of this vital organ (hepatitis). Hepatitis B has two possible phases; acute and chronic.
There are 2 billion people worldwide who have been infected with hepatitis B and 350 million patients living with chronic hepatitis B4. The condition is especially significant to Asians, with Asia Pacific alone contributing to 60 percent of the world’s liver failure/cancer cases. However, due to its asymptomatic nature in the early stages of the condition, hepatitis B often goes unnoticed or is passed off as flu – some unnoticeable symptoms that manifest include persistent fever, prolonged tiredness and loss of appetite. In Singapore, 68% of those with hepatitis B are unaware of the asymptomatic nature of the early signs of liver cancer5.
The likelihood of hepatitis B infection becoming chronic depends upon the age at which a person becomes infected. Hepatitis B infection at a younger age has a higher likelihood of chronic infections. On top of possibly living with hepatitis B for life, patients also face a high risk of liver diseases and liver cancer if they leave their condition unmanaged – as hepatitis B causes 80% of all liver diseases. In Singapore, one in six of all cancer deaths is a result of liver cancer.
Liver cancer is the fourth (colorectal, lung, prostate, liver) most common and third most fatal cancer among men in Singapore, and the Singapore Cancer Registry reported that 1,758 male liver cancer cases were reported between 2004 and 2008. 80% of liver cancer patients in Singapore are Chinese males, with rates rising in men aged 40 and above. The Chinese ethnicity has a 10 times higher incidence of liver cancer than Malays, and 23 times higher incidence of liver cancer than Indians. The Health Promotion Board estimated in 2008 that one in 35 Singapore residents carries the hepatitis B virus.