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Ann Med. 2004;36(3):215-24.

Seropositivity of hepatitis B e antigen and hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Graduate Institute of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, 1 Jen-Ai Road, Section 1, Taipei 10018, Taiwan.


Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) is an important clinical problem due to its worldwide distribution and potential of adverse sequelae including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) is a biomarker of active viral proliferation in hepatocytes and infectivity. The prevalence of HBeAg among subjects chronically infected with HBV decreases with the increase in age. Case series studies have found a lowest seroprevalence of HBeAg in HCC patients compared with patients affected with chronic hepatitis B and liver cirrhosis. Case-control studies have shown a significantly higher seroprevalence of HBeAg in HCC cases than matched controls. A recent long-term follow-up study has shown a significantly elevated HCC risk for seropositives of both hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and HBeAg compared with seropositives of HBsAg only and seronegatives. The biological gradient remained in further stratification analyses by serum level of alanine transaminase and status of liver cirrhosis detected by ultrasonography. The cumulative HCC risk from age 30 to 70 years has been estimated to be 87% for those who were persistently seropositive on HBsAg and HBeAg, 12% for those with persistent seropositivity of HBsAg only, and 1% for those who were seronegative on HBsAg and HBeAg.

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