About 90 percent of the 13,000 people who die from liver disease every year in Taiwan have hepatitis B or C. It can be reduced significantly if people with liver infections undergo regular check-ups and undergo treatment to prevent them from developing into cirrhosis or liver cancer.
The annual death count from liver disease accounts for about 8 percent of the total death toll in the nation, higher than the number of deaths caused by stroke. Among the liver diseases, liver cancer — with the second-highest incidence rate and the second leading cause of death — is the most deadly, causing 8,000 deaths annually.
However, death may be avoided through early detection and treatment. The main cause of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer among Taiwanese is hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections.
70 percent of those who died from liver cancer were HBV carriers and 20 percent had chronic active hepatitis C viral infections. Between 15 and 20 percent of HBV carriers who have persistent liver inflammation develop cirrhosis and have a greater chance of developing liver cancer. Half of the HCV infections also turn into chronic liver disease and 20 percent became cirrhosis, with 3 to 5 percent of people with cirrhosis eventually developing liver cancer.
A survey conducted by a local agency found that 80 percent of respondents thought that “staying up late” was one of the main causes of liver disease, which the agency said showed that people have insufficient knowledge about the disease. While 90 percent of the surveyed said they know that follow-up examinations and regular treatment help contain HBV and HCV infections, 30 percent of those who are aware that they are infected have not been seeking medical attention.
Research shows that people with HCV infection can reduce their chances of developing liver cancer by 65 percent if they are treated early, and that HBV carriers can lower the probability by 78 percent given proper treatment. As such, people with HBV and HCV infections are urged to undergo routine check ups and treatment.