Malignant transformation of hepatocellular adenomas into hepatocellular carcinomas: a systematic review including more than 1600 adenoma cases

HPB (Oxford). 2010 Oct;12(8):509-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1477-2574.2010.00222.x.


Background: Malignant transformation of hepatocellular adenomas (HCAs) into hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) has been reported repeatedly and is considered to be one of the main reasons for surgical treatment. However, its actual risk is currently unknown.

Objective: To provide an estimation of the frequency of malignant transformation of HCAs and to discuss its clinical implications.

Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted using the following databases: The Cochrane Hepatobiliary Group Controlled Trials Register, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), PubMed, MEDLINE and EMBASE.

Results: One hundred and fifty-seven relevant series and 17 case reports (a total of 1635 HCAs) were retrieved, reporting an overall frequency of malignant transformation of 4.2%. Only three cases (4.4%) of malignant alteration were reported in a tumour smaller than 5 cm in diameter.

Discussion: Malignant transformation of HCAs into HCCs remains a rare phenomenon with a reported frequency of 4.2%. A better selection of exactly those patients presenting with an HCA with an amplified risk of malignant degeneration is advocated in order to reduce the number of liver resections and thus reducing the operative risk for these predominantly young patients. The Bordeaux adenoma tumour markers are a promising method of identifying these high-risk adenomas.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / pathology*
  • Adenoma / surgery
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers, Tumor