Rates of liver cancer in Australia and New Zealand are predicted to soar over the next decade unless action is taken to curb viral hepatitis infections, one of the leading causes of the disease.
Liver specialists in both countries will on Monday call on their governments, health departments and clinicians to commit to doubling the number of people receiving treatment for hepatitis B and C by 2016.
Auckland City Hospital's deputy director of the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit, Dr Edward Gane, says an increase in liver cancer across both countries is due to chronic hepatitis B and C infections.
Both viruses accounted for about 75 per cent of all liver cancers in New Zealand and Australia, he says.
However, he says there's evidence that screening programmes are a cost-effective way of detecting the disease and preventing cancer.
It is estimated more than half a million New Zealanders and Australians are living with both strands of the virus.
But many may be unaware they are infected, Victorian Infectious Diseases Service physician, Dr Benjamin Cowie, says.
About half of those living with hepatitis B and C in New Zealand are undiagnosed, compared to about a quarter of Australians who are unaware they have hepatitis C and about a third who are oblivious to their hepatitis B infection.
"Many people present very late or only get diagnosed with hepatitis when they are diagnosed with liver cancer," Dr Cowie told reporters.
"By then it is far too late to enrol in treatment programs or the sort of liver cancer surveillance programs which are so effective at preventing cancer or diagnosing it early and reducing mortality."
A statement to be released on Monday by delegates from the eighth Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference will also call for a rollout of syringe exchange programmes in prisons and doubling safe injecting equipment in the community.
Hepatitis C is transmitted by injecting drug users while hepatitis B is often passed on at birth.