Objectives: The incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) seems to be rising in the United States (US), and considerable variability in the incidence and etiology of HCC has been noted among different racial and ethnic groups in this country. The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of racial and ethnic status in the viral etiology of HCC in the US.
Methods: Retrospective surveys were conducted at liver transplantation centers in the US. Respondents were asked to review the charts of all patients with HCC seen at their institution for the 2-yr period between July, 1997, and June, 1999, and provide information about the racial and ethnic distribution of cases and their serological status with regard to hepatitis B and C markers.
Results: Complete information was available on 691 patients who formed the basis of this study, comprising 59% whites, 14% blacks, 16% Asians, and 11% other racial groups. Of the patients, 107 patients (15.4%) were positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), 322 had antibodies to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) (46.5%), 33 (4.7%) had both HBsAg and anti-HCV), and 229 (33.1%) had neither marker present. Clear differences were seen among racial groups. Anti-HCV positivity was the most frequent risk factor in both blacks and whites, whereas HBsAg positivity was the most frequent etiological factor in Asians with HCC.
Conclusions: HCV infection seems to be the major risk factor for HCC in the US, particularly among individuals of white and black ethnicity, whereas hepatitis B remains the main risk factor among patients of Asian ethnicity. These preliminary findings indicate the need for a more detailed study of ethnic variability in the pathogenesis of HCC.