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J Gastroenterol. 2009;44 Suppl 19:102-7. doi: 10.1007/s00535-008-2251-0. Epub 2009 Jan 16.

Epidemiology of hepatocellular carcinoma in Japan.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Shinshu University School of Medicine, 3-1-1 Asahi, Matsumoto, 390-8621, Japan.


Primary liver cancer, 95% of which is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is ranked third in men and fifth in women as a cause of death from malignant neoplasms in Japan. The number of deaths and death rate of HCC began to increase sharply in 1975. These numbers peaked at 34,510 and 27.4/100,000, respectively, in 2004, but decreased to 33,662 annual deaths and a 26.7/100,000 death rate in 2006. Although hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are both major causes of HCC, HCV-related HCC represents 70% of all cases. The incidence of HCC without hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) or antibodies to HCV (anti-HCV) accounts for 8%-15% of HCC patients nationwide. Geographically, HCC is more frequent in western than eastern Japan, and death rates of HCC in each prefecture correlate with anti-HCV, but not HBsAg, prevalence. Interferon therapy for chronic hepatitis C reduces the risk of development of HCC, especially among patients with sustained virological response. Further research should focus on the mechanisms of carcinogenesis by HCV and HBV, development of more effective treatments, and establishment of early detection and preventative approaches. Better understanding of HCC unrelated to HCV and HBV, possibly caused by steatohepatitis and diabetes, should also be a major concern in future studies.

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