Hepatitis B and C cause significantly higher cancer risk than smoking a daily pack of cigarettes

  • World Hepatitis Day 2023 launches today with the urgent call to action ‘We’re not waiting’
  • A new report from CDA Foundation finds that individuals living with hepatitis B and C have a significantly higher risk of developing cancer than someone smoking one pack of cigarettes per day1
  • Nearly half (42%) of people globally are not aware that one of the leading causes of liver cancer is viral hepatitis2

28 July, 2023, 0001 CET

Today, World Hepatitis Day (WHD) launches with the call to action ‘We’re not waiting’. On WHD, the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) joins together with its global network of 323 members in over 100 countries to lead the campaign internationally to accelerate the fight against viral hepatitis, one of the most deadly and neglected diseases and health crises – one that is claiming a life every 30 seconds.

New research presented at the EASL Congress by the Center for Disease Analysis (CDA) Foundation1 found that hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) viruses are highly oncogenic leading to cancers in multiple organs and sites. The report finds that hepatitis B and C infected individuals “have a similar or significantly higher risk of developing cancer than someone who actively smokes one pack of cigarettes per day.” It concludes that HBV and HCV should be “considered as cancer causing infections and international guidelines should be reconsidered accordingly.”

A recent survey2 from WHA found that nearly half (42%) of people globally are unaware that one of the leading causes of liver cancer is viral hepatitis. Nearly three quarters (74%) of those surveyed say knowing hepatitis causes liver cancer means they are more likely to get tested and over four fifths (82%) say they are more likely to get vaccinated.

Globally, over 350 million people live with hepatitis B or C3, causing more than 1.1 million lives to be lost each year4. By 2040, deaths from viral hepatitis are expected to exceed mortality from HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined5.

Danjuma Adda, President, World Hepatitis Alliance says:       

“Every year, more than a million lives are lost to hepatitis. The theme of World Hepatitis Day 2023 is ‘We’re not waiting’. It’s a call to accelerate elimination efforts of viral hepatitis now and the urgent need for testing and treatment for the real people who need it. Individuals and communities around the world are making change happen in their own lives and in world around them. We celebrate them, while demanding more action. We’re not waiting for change – we’re fighting to make it happen.

Homie Razavi, Managing Director, CDA Foundation says:

“Hepatitis B and C infections are silent epidemics. These viral infections are cancer causing but since infected individuals don’t show any symptoms until it is too late, most infections go unnoticed.  It is important for all of us to recognize the high risk of cancer associated with hepatitis B and C infection and get patients linked to care. Treatment can reduce the risk of cancer by 85% or more.”

Get involved

World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) have produced a range of multi-channel campaign resources that you can use to raise awareness in your communities and online. Download the campaign guidelines for more information on the visual identity, digital resources (also below in the ‘Digital assets’ section) and activations to get involved. 

Download the campaign guidelines here. 

Download the communications toolkit here.

For more information contact:


Notes to editors:

About Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. WHO say that the total deaths cause by viral hepatitis, including acute cases, cirrhosis and liver cancer account for 1.1 million deaths globally in 2019. There are five different hepatitis viruses – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis A and E is spread mainly through ingestion of contaminated food and water and the disease is often endemic in countries with a lack of safe water and poor sanitation, but rarely becomes chronic. Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person and approximately 296 million people are living with chronic infections. Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact such as unsafe injection practices and inadequate sterilisation of medical equipment. Today, 58 million people are living with the disease. Hepatitis D is passed on through contact with infected blood and only occurs in people who are already infected with hepatitis B.

In total over 350 million people in the world are living with viral hepatitis. Each year over a million people lose their lives because of conditions related to acute hepatitis and chronic infection that cause liver cancer and cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis B and C infections are the leading cause of liver cancer

Despite there being a vaccine and effective treatment for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C – few countries in the world are on track to achieve the WHO target of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030 (Polaris Observatory – CDA Foundation).

About World Hepatitis Day

Held on July 28 each year, WHD is our day to raise awareness of viral hepatitis. On this day we aim to unite the global community to demand action from decision makers globally to prioritise the elimination of viral hepatitis. Across the world, campaign supporters will raise their voices on social media, hold webinars, speak to the media and hold events to spread the message and raise awareness of hepatitis. 

WHD is one of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) officially mandated global public health days. It is a day when the world comes together to raise awareness of hepatitis, one of the most deadly and neglected diseases and health crises – one that is claiming a life every 30 seconds. Globally, 354 million people live with hepatitis, with more than 1.1 million lives lost each year to hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Yet, we have the tools to eliminate the disease by 2030.  

Alongside this, WHD will also highlight the social injustice and inequity caused by the current lack of action on hepatitis elimination and focus on the positive action needed to get on track to meet our 2030 elimination goals. 

The World Hepatitis Alliance

The World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) is a patient-led and patient driven non-governmental organisation. With 323-member patient groups from 100 countries, WHA works with governments, national members and other key partners to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and influence global change. To achieve a world free from viral hepatitis, WHA provides global leadership in advocacy, awareness-raising and the fight to end its social injustice.



  1. Razavi, H. CDA Foundation, 2023. Risk of developing cancer – comparison of HBV, HCV, and smoking. DOI: 10.3252/pso.eu.EASLCONGRESS.2023
  2. Global survey of 569 respondents from: Argentina, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Nigeria, South Korea, Vietnam, and the United States of America. Participants sourced by SurveyMonkey Audience from 30 June to 4 July, 2023. Research conducted by the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA)
  3. World Health Organization, 2022. Hepatitis. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/hepatitis#tab=tab_1. Accessed 26 July 2022.
  4. World Health Organization, 2021. New report highlights global progress on reducing HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections and signals need for renewed efforts to reach 2030 targets. Available at: https://www.who.int/news/item/20-05-2021-new-report-highlights-global-progress-on-reducing-hiv-viral-hepatitis-and-sexually-transmitted-infections-and-signals-need-for-renewed-efforts-to-reach-2030-targets. Accessed 26 July 2022.
  5. Foreman, K., Marquez, N., Dolgert, A., Fukutaki, K., Fullman, N., McGaughey, M., Pletcher, M., Smith, A., Tang, K., Yuan, C., Brown, J., Friedman, J., He, J., Heuton, K., Holmberg, M., Patel, D., Reidy, P., Carter, A., Cercy, K., Chapin, A., Douwes-Schultz, D., Frank, T., Goettsch, F., Liu, P., Nandakumar, V., Reitsma, M., Reuter, V., Sadat, N., Sorensen, R., Srinivasan, V., Updike, R., York, H., Lopez, A., Lozano, R., Lim, S., Mokdad, A., Vollset, S. and Murray, C., 2018. Forecasting life expectancy, years of life lost, and all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 250 causes of death: reference and alternative scenarios for 2016–40 for 195 countries and territories. The Lancet, 392(10159), pp.2052-2090.