Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (cont.)

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What is the scope of the problem?

PBC is a disease that disproportionately affects women, with 10 women for every man having the disease. It is also a disease of adulthood that, rather curiously, has never been diagnosed in childhood. The diagnosis is made most frequently in middle-aged women between the ages of about 30 and 60 years. PBC is considered to be an uncommon disease, but not rare. Studies indicate that the number of people with PBC at a given time (referred to as the prevalence of disease) ranges from 19 to 251 per million population in various countries. If these figures are adjusted to compensate for the fact that PBC is found only in adults and that 90% of the patients are women, then the calculated prevalence is approximately 25 to 335 per million women and 2.8 to 37 per million men.

The largest and best long-term studies of PBC have been conducted in northern England. Their findings indicate that the number of new cases of PBC over time (referred to as the incidence of disease) has increased steadily from 16 per million population in 1976 to 251 per million in 1994. Unfortunately, no similar studies have been conducted elsewhere to validate or refute the belief that the incidence and prevalence of PBC is rising worldwide.

One comprehensive study conducted in the north of England from 1987 to 1994 was designed specifically to find people with PBC. Using strict criteria for the diagnosis of PBC, they identified a total of 770 patients. Of these, the number of newly diagnosed people with PBC during just these 7 years was 468. Thus, clinical investigators interested in PBC had conducted extensive epidemiological (cause and distribution) studies of PBC over almost 20 years in this same geographic area. Such a concentrated focus of effort strongly supports the view that the apparent increase in the number of people with PBC is indeed a true increase.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/9/2014

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