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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2008 Nov;132(11):1761-6. doi: 10.1043/1543-2165-132.11.1761.

Does nonalcoholic fatty liver disease predispose patients to hepatocellular carcinoma in the absence of cirrhosis?

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Department of Pathology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60614, USA.



Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is recognized as a complication of cirrhosis related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Diabetes and the metabolic syndrome are also associated with HCC. However, it is not clear whether NAFLD predisposes patients to HCC in the absence of cirrhosis.


To seek evidence that HCC can develop in NAFLD unaccompanied by cirrhosis.


Retrospective case study was performed on cases from 2004 to 2007 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, using the key words hepatocellular carcinoma, liver explant, and liver resection. The diagnosis of HCC was identified and confirmed by hematoxylin-eosin-stained slides in 50 cases. Cause of liver disease was determined by review of liver histology, clinical history, and laboratory data.


Three patients presented with advanced HCC with features of metabolic syndrome, including an elevated body mass index. Each patient had bland steatosis on liver biopsy, without fibrosis or cirrhosis. None of the 3 patients had evidence of any cause for liver disease other than NAFLD.


The cases presented here suggest that NAFLD may predispose patients to HCC in the absence of cirrhosis. Further studies are needed to confirm this potentially important observation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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