(HealthDay News) — A substantial proportion of patients with newly diagnosed cancer and concurrent hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are unaware of their viral infection at the time of cancer diagnosis, according to a study published online in JAMA Oncology.

Scott D. Ramsey, MD, PhD, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues estimated the prevalence of HBV, HCV, and HIV infection among 3051 patients with newly diagnosed cancer (median age, 60.6 years) seen at 9 academic and 9 community oncology institutions affiliated with the SWOG Cancer Research Network.

The researchers found that the infection rate was 6.5% for previous HBV infection, 0.6% for chronic HBV, 2.4% for HCV, and 1.1% for HIV. Several patients with viral infections were newly diagnosed through the study (8 patients with chronic HBV [42.1%], 22 patients with HCV [31%], and 2 patients with HIV [5.9%]). Among patients with infections, several had no identifiable risk factors (4 patients with chronic HBV, 23 patients with HCV, and 7 patients with HIV).

“Screening patients with cancer to identify HBV and HCV infection before starting treatment may be warranted to prevent viral reactivation and adverse clinical outcomes,” the authors write. “The low rate of undiagnosed HIV infection may not support universal screening of newly diagnosed cancer patients.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.

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Ramsey SD, Unger JM, Baker LH, et al. Prevalence of Hepatitis B Virus, Hepatitis C Virus, and HIV Infection Among Patients With Newly Diagnosed Cancer From Academic and Community Oncology Practices. JAMA Oncol. DOI:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.6437. (Published online January 17, 2019)