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Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2005 May;21(3):308-12.

Hepatocellular carcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, 48109, USA.



The incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is expected to continue to increase over the next two decades. The risk factors for the development of HCC are unknown and there is a lack of standardization of the diagnostic criteria for HCC. Our aim is to review the latest information regarding the risk factors, surveillance and diagnosis of this tumor.


Alcohol, tobacco, obesity, diabetes and viral etiology interact together to increase the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis, which may allow us to identify a high-risk group for HCC among patients with cirrhosis. Several studies showed that surveillance of cirrhotic patients is cost-effective and leads to an overall improvement in survival. This year a study from the United Network of Organ Sharing in the United States indicated that 30% of patients were understaged by imaging pre-transplant and 31% of patients with a diagnosis of stage 1 HCC (single lesion < 2 cm in diameter) did not have a tumor on the explant examination. Another study showed that washout of arterially enhancing lesions is very sensitive and specific for a diagnosis of HCC.


Not all patients with cirrhosis have an equal risk for developing hepatocellular carcinoma. Therefore, further studies should stratify the risk of HCC so surveillance is tailored to those at the highest risk. Standardization of the diagnostic criteria of HCC is critically important for better patient care and future research. Washout of arterially enhancing lesions should be important criteria of HCC.

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