Essay Example on Environmental Cancer Risks: Hepatitis Virus

Published: 2023-01-13
Essay Example on Environmental Cancer Risks: Hepatitis Virus
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Environment Cancer Public health
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1015 words
9 min read


Cancer is one of the diseases that continue to plague the human population. Research statistics claim that about 41% of Americans will be diagnosed with the illness, while 21% of them will die from it (National Cancer Institute, 2012). Various agents cause cancer. One of them is the hepatitis B and C virus. Chronic hepatitis B and C virus infection has been associated with liver cancer. It is an infectious agent that spreads through contact with infected fluids or foods. Experts established the connection between the virus and liver cancer since it led to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), especially among people born between 1945-1965(National Cancer Institute, 2012). Since it is a carcinogenic agent, policy response included active calls for people to get vaccinated with agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) taking the lead in combating the virus. Given that liver cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer worldwide, it is essential to explore the agent that causes the disease.

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Mechanism of Action of the Agent

The active ingredient of the carcinogen is its DNA. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) has a partially double-stranded DNA virus that replicates via reverse transcription. Unlike other retroviruses, HBV's life cycle does not rely on the integration of the viral DNA. The virus thrives in an episomal transcription template within the nucleus of infected hepatocytes known as covalently closed circular DNA (Ringehan, McKeating, & Protzer, 2017). While it has a limited range of hosts and tissue tropism, only a small number of HBV virions can trigger infection leading to illness.

Chronic HBV and HCV infections are responsible for about 60-70% of HCC incidences. The condition itself accounts for 90% of liver cancer cases across the globe. The virus causes cancer by initiating cirrhosis of the liver and HCC, which are illnesses that have high resistance to treatment procedures (Ringehan et al., 2017). Experts state there is a connection between HCC and cirrhosis while HBV accelerates the development of cancer. By damaging the host body's DNA and causing issues such as liver inflammation, the virus leads to the formation of tumors. The resistance of the tumors to medicine administered through chemotherapy increases the mortality of liver cancer.

Where the Agent is Encountered

One is likely to encounter the agent in human waste from infected persons. Transmission often occurs when one comes into contact with contaminated foods, water, and other drinks. Exposure to infected fluids like blood, semen, and other body fluids leads to infection. An individual is most likely to encounter the agent in specific geographical locations across the globe. For instance, the prevalence of HBV infection is highest in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia. An approximate 5-10% of the adult population in these areas suffers from HBV(Ringehan et al., 2017). Areas such as Amazon and southern parts of eastern and central Europe also have high infection rates.

According to the World Health Organization, less than 1% of the Western European and North American populations ail from chronic infection. In Puget Sound Region and the entire Washington state, acute and chronic hepatitis C virus are among the notifiable conditions (Linton, Goldoft, Syphard & Lindquist, 2016). The virus remains a problem in the region and necessitates, putting in place various measures to curb the spread of infection. While vaccination initiatives are targeting HBV, some areas continue to experience high rates of disease. Factors such as failure to implement the immunization programs have allowed the agent to harm populations. Thus, societies have to rely on measures such as improving hygiene standards.

Scope of the Problem

New cases of cancer infection, as well as deaths, continue to soar in the US and across the world. Liver cancer cases related to hepatitis B and C are also many. For instance, in the country, approximately 22,000 men and 9,000 women get infected while 17,000 men and 8,000 women die from the disease (Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2017). Such a high mortality rate hints at the severity of the disease and the impact that it has on the US population. The existence of a vaccine that can prevent infection has not significantly reduced infection and spreading rates as expected. As a result, the disease is a burden on society.

As early as 1982, the illness affected different regions. For example, in Taiwan, 20% of all deaths were due to HCC, and 80% of the cases resulted from chronic hepatitis B infection (Pecorino, 2012). Years later, HCC is the primary cause of over 1.3 million deaths each year. By causing liver cancer, it contributes to a high cancer-related mortality rate. For instance, on a global scale, there occur approximately 800,000 new cases of infection annually. The affected regions, such as North America, have witnessed an increase from 2.6 to 8.6 per 100 000 people between 1975 and 2011 (Ringehan et al., 2017). Thus, liver cancer continues to wreak havoc in society.


The research indicates that the hepatitis virus is one of the factors that causes liver cancer. Enactment of policies in response aimed at curbing the infection has been relatively valid. However, despite efforts to publicize information about the agent, a section of the target population remains uninformed. Thus, there is a need to raise awareness to increase participation of the public in vaccination programs through the use of mass media tools to educate them about immunization. Going forward, public health departments need to step up preventive measures to minimize infection rates. Therefore, it is essential to implement initiatives that will safeguard general welfare and address the cancer epidemic.


Centers for Disease Control (CDC). (2017). The disease of the week: Liver cancer. Retrieved from

Linton, N., Goldoft, M., Syphard, L., & Lindquist, S. (2016). Viral Hepatitis C in Washington State. Retrieved from

National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Hepatitis and liver cancer. Did you know? [Video].

Pecorino, L. (2012). The molecular biology of cancer. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Ringehan, M., McKeating, A., & Protzer, U. (2017). Viral hepatitis and liver cancer. Philos Trans RSoc Lond B Biol Sci 372: 20160274. Retrieved from

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