Survival rates are rising but more than 1,000 people die every year in Ontario from liver cancer.

Liver cancer is to blame for more than a thousand deaths every year in Ontario — and most of these occur in the Greater Toronto Area. In fact, the epidemic level of liver cancer in this city often goes unrecognized, as it’s diluted by provincial and national statistics.

So what is it about Toronto that makes it such a hot spot for this type of cancer?

Most of the cases occur in patients with chronic liver disease, typically due to chronic blood-borne infections with the hepatitis B or C viruses.

The transmission of hepatitis B occurs mainly from mother to child and is prevalent in several regions of the world. Immigrants from East Asian and African communities are at an especially elevated risk of carrying hepatitis B, and of developing liver cancer. Hepatitis C is found throughout the world and mainly spread through sharing and inadequate sterilization of needles and syringes. Those who’ve been exposed to infected blood are also at a higher risk — and adults born between 1945 and 1975 are much more likely to have been exposed to hepatitis C. Both infections are silent, with no symptoms until it is too late.

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