Epidemiology and surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma: New trends

J Hepatol. 2020 Feb;72(2):250-261. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2019.08.025.


The burden of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is highest in East Asia and Africa, although its incidence and mortality are rapidly rising in the United States and Europe. With the implementation of hepatitis B vaccination and hepatitis C treatment programmes worldwide, the epidemiology of HCC is shifting away from a disease predominated by viral hepatitis - an increasing proportion of cases are now attributable to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Surveillance using ultrasound, with or without alpha-fetoprotein, every 6 months has been associated with improved early detection and improved overall survival; however, limitations in implementation lead to a high proportion of HCC being detected at late stages in clinical practice. Herein, we review the current state of HCC surveillance and highlight areas for future research, including improved risk stratification of at-risk patients, surveillance tools with higher sensitivity and specificity for early HCC, and interventions to increase surveillance utilisation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / blood
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / etiology
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / complications
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / complications
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Liver Neoplasms / blood
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / complications
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Ultrasonography / methods
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / analysis


  • AFP protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • alpha-Fetoproteins