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Heavy drinking risky for women with hepatitis

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Heavy alcohol use increases mortality with hepatitis C virus (HCV) to a greater extent in women than in men, according to a report.

"Previous studies indicated that alcohol use is a risk factor for HCV disease progression, but they seldom examined the effect on women and men separately," lead author Dr. Chiung Chen, from CSR, Inc., Arlington, Virginia, said in a statement. "Even fewer studies were able to examine the effect of alcohol on HCV mortality. Our study provides empirical evidence to fill the gap."

Chen and colleagues analyzed 132,468 deaths due to HCV and/or heavy alcohol use entered in National Center for Health Statistics databases between 2000 and 2002.

Female hepatitis C patients who were not heavy drinkers died at an average age of 61.0 years, while those who drank died at 49.1 years.

By contrast, heavy drinking had less effect on lifespan in men, lowering the average age of death with hepatitis C from 55.1 to 50.0 years.

The findings emphasize that heavy drinking is a key factor that influences hepatitis C mortality, the researchers state. More importantly, the study provides the first evidence of a gender difference in alcohol intake-related hepatitis C mortality.

Further studies are warranted to determine if similar differences in HCV mortality are seen across racial/ethnic group and to investigate the possible interactions with HIV coinfection, the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, February 2007.


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