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Semin Oncol. 2001 Oct;28(5):441-9.

The epidemiology and prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma.

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  • 1GI Research, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common cancer. Its incidence is higher in countries where hepatitis B is endemic. HCC is substantially a complication of liver cirrhosis. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are the predominant causes of cirrhosis, and as such, HCC. The link between HCC and alcoholic cirrhosis is less strong. Other less common forms of chronic liver disease can also lead to HCC. HBV is the HCC-determining disease worldwide. In endemic regions, it tends to be acquired early in life. The largest strides in prevention of HCC have been made with the HBV vaccine. HCV has a lower global prevalence than HBV, but HCV causes the most HCC in economically developed regions. In these areas, where the incidence of HCC is low, HCV now accounts for more than 50% of HCCs. There is no vaccine for HCV, so prevention of HCV-associated HCC will focus on prevention of initial infection and elimination of infection through antiviral therapies. HBV-HCV coinfection, and the combination of either with alcohol abuse or aflatoxin exposure seems to raise the risk of HCC development further. Liver transplantation and other adjuvant therapies may offer better options for secondary prevention of HCC than resection alone.

Copyright 2001 by W.B. Saunders Company.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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