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Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Jan;20(1):1-4.

Malignancies in primary biliary cirrhosis.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology, Division of Internal Medicine, Bolondi, Bologna, Italy.


(Table is included in full-text article.)PBC in the advanced stage, corresponding to PBC stage IV, was shown in the past to be associated with an increased incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). There is currently a debate, about the increase in incidence of extrahepatic malignancies, as some, but not all studies reported these neoplasms to be more common, especially breast cancer, irrespective of the PBC disease stage. In this issue of the journal a case series is reported on the incidence of various malignancies in a cohort of 212 patients with PBC from Greece. Considering as reference the cancer registries of another Mediterranean Country, like Italy, we could suggest that the incidence of extrahepatic malignancy, breast included, is not increased in PBC patients. Indeed, a more accurate analysis of the literature, shows that higher incidence of breast cancer were reported only for PBC patients evaluated in the 1970s and early 1980s, for whom a contribution of immunosuppressive agents, largely under investigation at that time, could be speculated. PBC patients do not need, therefore, to be submitted to stricter surveillance programs for extrahepatic cancer than the general population. As far as the development of HCC is concerned, instead, PBC patients should undergo the usual surveillance reserved to other categories of cirrhotic patients, according to published guidelines for the management of HCC. Such surveillance should start only when PBC patients have reached disease stage IV (frank cirrhosis).

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