All cancer patients should be screened for exposure to the Hepatitis C virus because cancer treatment can make an active viral infection worse, according to a statement published this month in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has long been known as a cause for some types of liver cancer and lymphoma. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1965) be screened for the virus. About 2.6 percent of people in this age group are infected, but many of them, and their physicians, never realize it.

Newer anti-viral drugs can cure hepatitis C and lower the risk that people will later develop cancer. Eliminating the virus also makes patient eligible for cancer clinical trials.

“Given the potential adverse consequences of chronic HCV infection and the availability of effective treatment, identification of HCV-infected individuals is critical,’’ the authors wrote.

Howard Bailey, MD, director of the UW Carbone Cancer Center, as well as liver cancer expert Noelle LoConte, MD, and gastroenterologist John Rice, MD, all of the Department of Medicine faculty, were authors of the recommendations. The lead author is Jessica Hwang, MD, MPH, of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.