Introduction: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the sixth most common cancer and the third-leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the world.
Areas covered: This review will discuss risk factors, demographic differences, global trends, and the economic burden of HCC. Viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, is the most common underlying liver disease leading to HCC in those with cirrhosis. Other important risk factors include alcoholic liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, etc. With the introduction of direct-acting antiviral agents for hepatitis C virus infection, routine vaccination against HBV, and increasing support for robust public screening programs, the incidence rates for HCC due to viral hepatitis is falling in many countries. Meanwhile, the prevalence of obesity and metabolic syndrome are on the rise, as is NAFLD-related HCC incidence. Asia and Africa have the highest incidence rates of HCC. In multiethnic countries, racial and ethnic minorities experience disparities in HCC incidence as well as mortality, representing an essential area for improvement in terms of healthcare inequity.
Expert opinion: Interventions to minimize the global burden of HCC aim to reduce rates of the most common risk factors and implement effective treatment of underlying etiology and comprehensive screening programs for HCC.
Keywords: Healthcare disparities; hepatocellular carcinoma; incidence; liver cancer; mortality; population health.