Alcohol abuse and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are the two major risk factors for the development of cirrhosis in the Western Hemisphere. This report examined these two risk factors in two case-control studies from Italy. The cases were 285 patients with cirrhosis admitted for the first time to a hospital for worsening liver disease. The controls were 417 patients admitted during the same time period for acute diseases not related to alcohol.
The odds ratio of developing symptomatic cirrhosis was 9.2 in subjects who drank no alcohol and had HCV infection compared to subjects who had zero lifetime daily alcohol consumption and no evidence of HCV infection. For heavy lifetime alcohol users (greater than 175 g/day), the odds ratio for developing symptomatic cirrhosis was 15 in those without HCV infection and 147 in those with HCV infection.
An additive relative risk for developing symptomatic cirrhosis was also seen with lower levels of daily alcohol consumption in individuals with chronic HCV infection. These results show that alcohol abuse and chronic HCV infection are independent risk factors for developing cirrhosis. These two risk factors together greatly compound the odds of developing cirrhosis, especially at high levels of alcohol use.
Copyright, 1998, Columbia University Division of GastroenterologyHepatitis C By Howard J. Worman, M. D.
Corrao, G., and Arico, S. 1998. Independent and combined action of hepatitis C virus infection and alcohol consumption on the risk of symptomatic liver cirrhosis. Hepatology. 27:914-919.