Background: The prevalence of the different hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) macroscopic types, and the association between these types and age, gender, blood group, alcohol and coffee intake, smoking habit, hepatitis virus markers, underlying cirrhosis, and cancer histologic type were retrospectively assessed in 416 unselected patients (321 with cirrhosis).
Methods: The gross pathologic types of HCC were assessed by ultrasonography combined, in most cases, with computed tomography and angiography.
Results: Solitary HCC was the most common cancer type (54.8%), followed by the multinodular (31%), diffuse (7.7%), and massive (6.5%) types. Cirrhosis and blood group other than O were independent risk factors for multinodular HCC (relative risk [RR] 1.6, P < 0.05; and RR 1.7, P < 0.005, respectively); the absence of cirrhosis and a heavy smoking habit were risk factors for the massive type (RR 4.9, P < 0.001; and RR 3.3, P < 0.01, respectively); and blood group O for the solitary type (RR 1.4, P < 0.001). The prevalence of highly undifferentiated cells increased as the tumor size did, so that grade IV cell atypia was associated with massive size of the carcinoma (P < 0.05). In cirrhotic patients, advanced liver dysfunction was associated with diffuse HCC (P < 0.05). As far as solitary HCC is concerned, the tumor size was greater in noncirrhotic than in cirrhotic patients (7 +/- 0.4 cm versus 4.8 +/- 0.15, P < 0.001).
Conclusions: In Italian patients, HCC presents most frequently as a solitary nodule. The presence or absence of cirrhosis, blood group, and smoking habit can influence the likelihood of developing certain HCC shapes. The probability of harboring highly undifferentiated cells increases as the cancer increases in size. In cirrhosis, advanced liver dysfunction may predispose to diffuse HCC.