80% of liver cancer deaths can be prevented, saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year globally

4 Feb 2016 Tara Farrell

On World Cancer Day, the World Hepatitis Alliance is calling for the establishment of comprehensive hepatitis strategies to help prevent the 800,000 liver cancer deaths each year.

London, 4 February 2016 Rock-icon David Bowie died recently at the age of 69 after a battle with what is being reported as liver cancer. Each year, globally, more than 800,000 people die from liver cancer, the second biggest cancer killer.i Yet, a high majority of these deaths are completely preventable.

Liver cancer comes in two forms: primary liver cancer, where it begins in the liver, and secondary, where it spreads from other organs. Primary liver cancer, the most prevalent liver cancer worldwide, can be attributed to heavy drinking and other unhealthy lifestyle choices, but is most commonly caused by having a long-term infection with the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus – which in turn accounts for the biggest cause of the 642,500 liver cancer related deaths per year, globally.i

What many people don’t realise is that liver cancer caused by viral hepatitis is 100 percent preventable. Preventative vaccines are available for hepatitis B. Similarly, highly effective curative treatments are available for hepatitis C. However for those who have hepatitis C, less than one percent globally have accessed effective antiviral therapy.[i] Cost and access to preventative and curative interventions are key barriers to the reduction of viral hepatitis cases and therefore liver cancer deaths.

“300,000 liver cancer deaths per year are preventable through vaccination, and even more can be prevented through early diagnosis and treatment. On World Cancer Day, we are calling for civil society to join together to demand that adequate screening and treatment is available globally,” said Raquel Peck, CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

The theme of this year’s World Cancer Day, ‘We can. I can.’ explores how everyone – together or as individuals – can do their part to reduce the global burden of cancer. Just as viral hepatitis affects everyone in different ways, all members of society including governments have the power to take various actions to reduce the impact of cancer.

To mark World Cancer Day, the World Hepatitis Alliance pledges their support to:

  • Shape policy: call on governments to take a leadership role and establish comprehensive hepatitis strategies which have robust prevention measures and deliver access to affordable diagnostics and treatment
  • Prevent cancer: call for the removal of barriers and speed up the process of national registration of hepatitis drugs
  • Work together for increased impact: develop partnerships with governments, private and civil society that accelerate progress on shared goals.

Cary Adams, CEO, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) said, “World Cancer Day is a global milestone for cancer control and prevention. This year we are recognising the importance of how everyone can do their part and use the day as a springboard for positive change. Working with the World Hepatitis Alliance and other organisations, we can demonstrate the impact of a joined up approach to reduce the annual cancer death toll of more than 8 million people worldwide. Together, We can. I can. Beat cancer.”



[i] Alter MJ. Epidemiology of hepatitis C virus infection. World J Gastroenterol 2007;13:2436-41.