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Hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhosis: incidence and risk factors

Giovanna Fattovich, Tommaso Stroffolini, Irene Zagni, Francesco Donato
Gastroenterology 2004, 127 (5): S35-50
15508101
Emerging data indicate that the mortality rate of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) associated with cirrhosis is rising in some developed countries, whereas mortality from non-HCC complications of cirrhosis is decreasing or is stable. Cohort studies indicate that HCC is currently the major cause of liver-related death in patients with compensated cirrhosis. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is associated with the highest HCC incidence in persons with cirrhosis, occurring twice as commonly in Japan than in the West (5-year cumulative incidence, 30% and 17%, respectively), followed by hereditary hemochromatosis (5-year cumulative incidence, 21%). In hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related cirrhosis, the 5-year cumulative HCC risk is 15% in high endemic areas and 10% in the West. In the absence of HCV and HBV infection, the HCC incidence is lower in alcoholic cirrhotics (5-year cumulative risk, 8%) and subjects with advanced biliary cirrhosis (5-year cumulative risk, 4%). There are limited data on HCC risk in cirrhosis of other causes. Older age, male sex, severity of compensated cirrhosis at presentation, and sustained activity of liver disease are important predictors of HCC, independent of etiology of cirrhosis. In viral-related cirrhosis, HBV/HCV and HBV/HDV coinfections increase the HCC risk (2- to 6-fold relative to each infection alone) as does alcohol abuse (2- to 4-fold relative to alcohol abstinence). Sustained reduction of HBV replication lowers the risk of HCC in HBV-related cirrhosis. Further studies are needed to investigate other viral factors (eg, HBV genotype/mutant, occult HBV, HIV coinfection) and preventable or treatable comorbidities (eg, obesity, diabetes) in the HCC risk in cirrhosis.

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