New Insights Into the Relationships Among Alcohol Consumption, Hepatocellular Carcinoma and Hepatitis C Virus Infection


Context: Viral hepatitis and the consumption of alcohol are recognized as important reasons for the development of liver disease throughout the world. It would also seem that chronic alcoholism causes more severe and rapid progression of liver disease in patients with chronic hepatitis C, leading to more frequent liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Evidence Acquisition: The data for this article were obtained through an initial Medline search and from the references of relevant articles, and used to provide updated information on the relationship between alcohol consumption and the hepatitis C virus.

Results: Excessive alcohol consumption among patients with chronic hepatitis C is likely to result in more severe hepatic injuries, promote pathologic progression to cirrhosis, and increase the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. Although the exact mechanisms involved in the progression of chronic hepatitis C in alcoholic patients have not been definitely established, possible alcohol-induced enhancement of viral replication, iron overload, immunologic suppression, the role of NF-kappa B, and the signaling pathways involved in its activation, have been suggested. Significant correlations have been reported between hepatitis C virus RNA levels and the amount of alcohol consumed by an individual. Interferon therapy is less effective for alcohol patients, than non-alcoholic patients, even after a period of abstinence. The obtained data suggest that a hepatitis C virus infection is an important cofactor in the pathogenesis of liver disease among patients with an alcohol problem.

Conclusions: In light of a possible synergistic effect between alcohol and hepatitis C virus replication, total abstention ought to be recommended, and due to alcohol's inhibitory effect on interferon therapy, patients with alcohol problems should not be treated until they stop drinking.