Hepatitis B Vaccination Protects Against Liver Cancer

Immunization program for newborns has lasting effects beyond childhood, researchers say

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WEDNESDAY, Sept. 16, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Vaccination at birth against hepatitis B virus greatly reduces the risk of liver cancer in young adulthood, new research suggests.

In a 20-year study that followed infants who were vaccinated against the liver disease in Taiwan beginning in 1984, when a universal vaccination program went into effect, Dr. Mei-Hwei Chang, of the Department of Pediatrics at the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei, and colleagues looked at young people who had developed liver cancer.

The researchers found that only a few people who had been vaccinated developed liver cancer, and there were possible explanations in most cases, such as insufficient doses of the vaccine.

The findings appear in the Sept. 16 online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"These data suggest that the effectiveness of the universal hepatitis B virus immunization program to prevent [liver cancer] has extended beyond childhood and into young adulthood over the past two decades," the authors concluded.

In the United States, hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all infants, older children and adolescents if they haven't previously been vaccinated. Officials recommend that adults get the vaccination if they're at risk for the disease.

More information

For more about hepatitis, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, Sept. 16, 2009

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