Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Gastroenterologist. 1995 Mar;3(1):55-66.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is among the 10 most common tumors in the world. However, incidence is not evenly distributed across the world. In many instances, the proximate cause for the tumor can be identified. Chronic hepatitis B infection is probably the most common cause, followed by chronic hepatitis C. Other important causes are alcoholic liver disease, hemochromatosis, alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, and other chronic liver diseases. Although proximate causes may be identifiable, pathogenesis remains uncertain. Factors that may be important include the presence of Aflatoxin B1 in food, genetic changes induced by the hepatitis B virus, and repeated rounds of necrosis and regeneration, also induced by hepatitis viruses. The genes involved and the mutations necessary for hepatic carcinogenesis are unknown, with the sole exception of the p53 gene, which is probably a late phenomenon. Screening for HCC is widely practiced despite the lack of evidence of improved survival. The screening tests used include alphafetoprotein levels and ultrasonography. Screening can identify small tumors; however, survival may not be improved, because the presence of cirrhosis may limit the number of patients who can undergo resections; recurrences or second primary tumors are common; and the presence of chronic liver disease means that survival may be limited anyway. There are many different forms of therapy available; unfortunately, most have not been compared in randomized controlled trials. Surgery remains the therapy of choice if feasible. All other therapy is palliative, including chemotherapy, chemoembolization, hepatic artery embolization, various forms of radiotherapy, and various forms of ablative therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / prevention & control
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / therapy
  • Hepatitis B / complications
  • Hepatitis C / complications
  • Hepatitis, Chronic / complications
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Liver Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Liver Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Liver Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Mass Screening
  • Palliative Care
  • Risk Factors