Background/aim: In the West, hepatocellular carcinoma rarely occurs in patients without cirrhosis. In these patients, epidemiological factors and the histopathology of the non-neoplastic liver are not well known. The aim of this study was to clarify these points.
Methods: We studied 30 patients (26 men, 28-87 years) with hepatocellular carcinoma and histologically-proven non-cirrhotic livers. Serological markers of HBV and HCV infection, as well as alcohol and tobacco consumption were evaluated. Pathological changes in the non-tumorous liver (fibrosis, inflammation, steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis lesions, iron overload, and large cell dysplasia) were systematically assessed using semi-quantitative scores.
Results: Twenty patients had alcohol intake > or =30 g/d and 16 were smokers. Serological HBV or HCV markers were positive in 10 patients. Only four patients had no exposure to alcohol or tobacco and no serological markers of HBV or HCV Histological examination showed that all livers had pathological changes. Seventeen patients (57%) had clearly-identified chronic liver disease: chronic hepatitis (n = 10) or alcoholic liver disease (n = 7). Non-specific and moderate pathological changes were observed in the 13 other patients (43%), with different degrees of fibrosis, activity, steatosis, and iron overload. Large cell dysplasia was present in 12 patients (40%).
Conclusions: In our study, all patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and non-cirrhotic livers had non-tumorous pathological liver changes, especially iron overload and large cell dysplasia. These results suggest that hepatocellular carcinoma originates from an abnormal histological background, even in non-cirrhotic liver.