Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a known risk factor in the development of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The HBV-encoded X protein, HBx, has been investigated for properties that may explain its cancer cofactor role in transgenic mouse lines. We discuss here recent data showing that HBx is able to induce hepatocellular proliferation in vitro and in vivo. This property of HBx is predicted to sensitize hepatocytes to other HCC cofactors, including exposure to carcinogens and to other hepatitis viruses. Cellular proliferation is intimately linked to the mechanism(s) by which most tumor-associated viruses transform virus-infected cells. The HBx alteration of the cell cycle provides an additional mechanism by which chronic HBV infection may contribute to HCC.