Risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in diabetic patients and risk reduction associated with anti-diabetic therapy: a population-based cohort study

Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jan;107(1):46-52. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2011.384. Epub 2011 Nov 15.


Objectives: Using population-based representative insurance claims data, the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) among diabetes mellitus (DM) patients, as well as whether DM medications alter the risk of developing HCC were investigated.

Methods: From the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, 19,349 newly diagnosed DM patients 20 years and older and 77,396 comparison subjects without DM were identified from claims from 2000 to 2005. The incidences of HCC at the end of 2008 and the risks associated with hepatitis B and hepatitis C were determined. Whether metformin and thiazolidinediones reduce the risk of developing HCC was also measured.

Results: The incidence of HCC was twice higher in the DM group compared with the non-DM group (21.0 vs. 10.4 per 10,000 person-years), with an adjusted hazard ratio (HR) of 1.73 (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.47-2.03) using multivariable Cox proportional hazard regression. Male sex, cirrhosis, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C were significant independent factors that predict HCC, with HRs of 2.32, 8.65, 2.52, and 5.61, respectively. In the stratified analysis, the HR increased to 72.4 (95% CI=42.9-122) among patients with DM, cirrhosis, and hepatitis C. HCC risk reduction was greater for diabetics taking metformin than those taking thiazolidinediones (51 vs. 44% reduction).

Conclusions: Comorbidity with cirrhosis and/or hepatitis appears to be associated with an extremely increased risk of developing HCC among DM patients. These high-risk patients should be closely monitored for HCC. The use of metformin or thiazolidinediones may reduce the risk of developing HCC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / prevention & control*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Complications / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Complications / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Incidence
  • Liver Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Hypoglycemic Agents