Background: To date, no attempt has been made to systematically determine the apportionment of the hepatocellular carcinoma burden in Europe or North America among established risk factors.
Methods: Using data collected from 1992 to 2006, which included 4,409,809 person-years in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC), we identified 125 case patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, of whom 115 were matched to 229 control subjects. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) for the association of documented risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma with incidence of this disease and estimated their importance in this European cohort.
Results: Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection (OR = 9.10, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.10 to 39.50 and OR = 13.36, 95% CI = 4.11 to 43.45, respectively), obesity (OR = 2.13, 95% CI = 1.06 to 4.29), former or current smoking (OR = 1.98, 95% CI = 0.90 to 4.39 and OR = 4.55, 95% CI = 1.90 to 10.91, respectively), and heavy alcohol intake (OR = 1.77, 95% CI = 0.73 to 4.27) were associated with hepatocellular carcinoma. Smoking contributed to almost half of all hepatocellular carcinomas (47.6%), whereas 13.2% and 20.9% were attributable to chronic HBV and HCV infection, respectively. Obesity and heavy alcohol intake contributed 16.1% and 10.2%, respectively. Almost two-thirds (65.7%, 95% CI = 50.6% to 79.3%) of hepatocellular carcinomas can be accounted for by exposure to at least one of these documented risk factors.
Conclusions: Smoking contributed to more hepatocellular carcinomas in this Europe-wide cohort than chronic HBV and HCV infections. Heavy alcohol consumption and obesity also contributed to sizeable fractions of this disease burden. These contributions may be underestimates because EPIC volunteers are likely to be more health conscious than the general population.