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Review
. Jul-Aug 2008;659(1-2):176-84.
doi: 10.1016/j.mrrev.2008.01.005. Epub 2008 Jan 20.

Changing Pattern of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) and Its Risk Factors in Egypt: Possibilities for Prevention

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Review

Changing Pattern of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) and Its Risk Factors in Egypt: Possibilities for Prevention

Wagida A Anwar et al. Mutat Res. .

Abstract

The burden of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has been increasing in Egypt with a doubling in the incidence rate in the past 10 years. This has been attributed to several biological (e.g. hepatitis B and C virus infection) and environmental factors (e.g. aflatoxin, AF). Other factors such as cigarette smoking, occupational exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, and endemic infections in the community, such as schistosomiasis, may have additional roles in the etiology or progression of the disease. Estimates of the burden of cancer caused by these factors provide an opportunity for prevention. Previously, there was strong evidence that hepatitis B virus (HBV) was the major cause of HCC in Egypt, but more recently HCV has become the predominant factor associated with the more recent epidemic of HCC. It has been well documented that Egypt has one of the highest prevalence rates of HCV infection in the world. The natural history of HCV infection and disease progression, however, are influenced by additional factors such as duration of infection, age at infection, sex, co-infection with HBV, the level of HCV viraemia and its genotype. The role of exposure to aflatoxins and development of HCC in Egypt was historically less clear. Nevertheless, recent food sampling surveys and population-based studies indicated that exposure to aflatoxins in Egypt may have been underestimated in the past. Recent results indicated that both local and imported samples were positive for aflatoxin B1 (AFB1, 17.5% and 20%, respectively), with concentrations ranging from 3 to 25 microg/kg. The level of AFB1 was dependent on the area of collection as well as the season of the year. In a population-based study, the level and frequency of aflatoxin M1 (AFM1, a major metabolite of aflatoxin B1 excreted in breast milk) was assessed as a biomarker of maternal exposure. The samples were collected from a selected group of 388 Egyptian lactating mothers during May-September 2003. Non-working status, obesity, high corn oil consumption, and the number of offspring contributed to the variability in occurrence of AFM1 in breast milk. Prevention and intervention approaches directed to risk factors of HCC can play a critical role in its prevention. In the case of HCV infection a prevention programme can be achieved by changing personal behaviors and/or cultural habits which are risk factors for HCV transmission, such as injection with contaminated syringes, blood transfusion, surgical operations, venous catheterization, use of common syringes, dental treatment and circumcision at home. Prevention of exposure to aflatoxins can be achieved either at community (via good agriculture practices) or individual levels (treatment or dietary interventions). In conclusion, due to the alarming increase in the incidence of HCC in Egypt, there is a need to further investigate the contribution of these emerging risk factors to the development of HCC in Egypt. This may enable us to determine the susceptibility to HCC among high-risk groups and to provide these individuals with effective measures for early prevention or intervention.

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