OBJECTIVE: Hepatitis C, an important cause of premature mortality, is the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States. The severity of disease is strongly affected by a number of other medical conditions and health behaviors. We sought to estimate the association of several exposures with hepatitis C on death certificates.
METHODS: We enrolled 63,189 hepatitis C deaths as cases in a case-control study using multiple-cause-of-death data for the U.S. from 1999 to 2004. Three control groups were assembled from all remaining deaths with no mention of hepatitis C, including a random sample of all deaths, digestive disease deaths, and circulatory disease deaths.
RESULTS: Hepatitis B, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hemochromatosis, and alcohol use were all strongly associated with hepatitis C, even after controlling for confounding variables. The simultaneous presence of many of these exposures had a synergistic association with hepatitis C being listed as a cause of death. Hepatitis B, HIV, and alcohol use were recorded among 6.4%, 10.5%, and 18.2% of case deaths, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: The strong association of alcohol use, HIV, and hepatitis B with hepatitis C, as well as the frequent occurrence of these conditions, indicates that targeted interventions for mitigating the potential effect of these exposures may present an efficient means of limiting progression of hepatitis C-related liver disease and reducing the population burden of hepatitis C mortality.