Objectives: The purpose of this study was to describe the role of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the etiology of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Methods: During a 4-year period from January 1995 to December 1998, blood samples and questionnaire data were obtained from 333 incident cases of HCC from Athens, Greece, as well as from patients in two control groups, also from Athens. Controls were 272 metastatic liver cancer (MLC) patients and 360 patients hospitalized for injuries or eye, ear, nose or throat conditions. Coded sera were tested for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and antibodies to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) by third-generation enzyme immunoassays.
Results: The odds ratios (with 95% confidence intervals) in logistic regression modeling comparing the HCC cases to the combined control series were 48.8 (30.5-78.3) for the presence of HBsAg and 23.2 (11.4-47.3) for the presence of anti-HCV. The odds ratio for concurrent infection with HBV and HCV was 46.2 (9.9-216.6) compared to infection with neither virus.
Conclusions: Although HBV and HCV are both important causes of HCC in this study population the data do not suggest, neither do they conclusively refute, a super-additive interaction between the two infections in the development of this malignancy. In this population, 58% of HCC cases can be attributed to HBV, 12% to HCV, and 3% to dual infection with these viruses.