Twin Cities Somalis to learn about their increased risk for liver cancer

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic, University of Minnesota, pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, and Gargar Clinic, a Somali-owned private clinic in Minneapolis, are embarking on a campaign to inform the Somali community about their increased risk for liver cancer. They’ll hold the first of what they hope to be many meetings with the Somali community Sunday at the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis.

The meeting is one attempt to raise awareness of recent findings published in a Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal. The study found that chronic hepatitis is primarily caused by two kinds of viral infections — hepatitis B and hepatitis C — and both types are major risk factors for liver cancer.

The study also found that both viruses are common among Somali immigrants. Researchers recommended screening Somali immigrants for both hepatitis B and C.

Mayo doctor Abdirashid Shire is one of the study authors and will be among the physicians at the meeting Sunday. He said people who are chronically infected often don’t see symptoms for years.

“Since a majority of individuals show no symptoms of chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection, the infections may spread in the Minnesota’s Somali community.”

Shire says that’s why all Somalis should be screened before they pass the infection on.

“We know in terms of transmission, it’s either horizontal — which means from individual to individual through contaminated blood and sexual intercourse with infected person– and the other one is vertical, where…pregnant mothers can pass the infection on to unborn babies.”

Shire hopes to enroll people who were born in Somalia or are of Somali descent in his Mayo study, which examines the genetic structures of both viruses, while also providing free hepatitis screening.

The meeting is from 2 – 6p, Sunday, March 25.

Comments are closed.