Liver cancer epidemic in China: past, present and future

Semin Cancer Biol. 2011 Feb;21(1):59-69. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2010.11.002. Epub 2010 Dec 7.


Primary liver cancer is the second most common malignancy, and currently results in 360,000 incident cases, and 350,000 deaths a year in China. For the past four decades, three national surveys on cancer mortality during the periods of 1973-1975, 1990-1992, and 2004-2005 have made it possible to estimate China's past and present liver cancer epidemic. The mortality rates of liver cancer were 17.6 and 7.3 per 100,000 for males and females in 1973-1975, 29.0 and 11.2 per 100,000 in 1990-1992, and 37.55 and 14.45 per 100,000 in 2004-2005, respectively. Recent monitoring from some regional cancer registries, which cover 5.7% of the total population in China, has revealed the distribution, disparities and trends of liver cancer in rural and urban areas. HBV and aflatoxins have been identified as major causal factors, that act individually and synergistically of liver cancer in the etiology. Other agents such as HCV, genetic susceptibility or genetic polymorphisms may also play important roles in the development of liver cancer. Great effort aimed at primary and Secondary prevention of this cancer, such as universal hepatitis B vaccination in children, chemoprevention in selected population, and early detection in at-risk population, has been undertaken. These strategies might be further emphasized in the future for the effective prevention of liver cancer in China.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Liver Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors