Background & aims: Early age at infection with Hepatitis B virus (HBV) increases the risk of chronic infection. Moreover, early HBV infection may further independently increase the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) beyond its effect on chronicity.
Methods: The distribution of birth order, a proxy for mode and timing of HBV transmission, was compared in The Gambia between hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive HCC cases recruited from hospitals (n = 72) and two HBsAg-positive control groups without HCC: population-based controls from a community HBV screening (n = 392) and hospital-based controls (n = 63).
Results: HCC risk decreased with increasing birth order in the population-based case-control analysis. Using first birth order as the reference, the odds ratios were 0.52 (95% CI: 0.20-1.36), 0.52 (0.17-1.56), 0.57 (0.16-2.05) and 0.14 (0.03-0.64) for second, third, fourth and greater than fourth birth order respectively (P = 0.01). A similar inverse association was observed in the hospital-based case-control comparison (P = 0.04).
Conclusions: Compared to controls, HCC cases had earlier birth order, a proxy for young maternal age and maternal HBV viraemia at birth. This finding suggests that in chronic HBV carriers perinatal mother-to-infant transmission may increase HCC risk more than horizontal transmission. Providing HBV vaccine within 24 h of birth to interrupt perinatal transmission might reduce the incidence of HCC in The Gambia.
Keywords: Africa; Hepatitis B; birth order; carcinoma; hepatocellular; infectious disease transmission; vertical.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.