Clinical Medicine Insights: Oncology 2014:8 71-76
Published on 19 May 2014
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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common tumors worldwide and one of the deadliest. Patients with chronic liver disease are at the highest risk for developing this tumor. This link provides an opportunity for developing preventive strategies and surveillance that aims at early detection of this tumor and possibly improving outcomes. In this review, we will discuss the latest developments in surveillance strategies, diagnosis, and treatment of this tumor. HCC is the sixth most common cancer in the world, with 782,000 new cases occurring in 2012 worldwide. In 2012, there were 746,000 deaths from liver cancer.¹ HCC is the third most fatal cancer in the world.² The distribution of HCC, which varies geographically, is related to the prevalence of hepatotropic virus. The burden of the disease is the highest in Eastern Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Melanesia where hepatitis B (HBV) infection is endemic. Meanwhile, in Japan, United States, and Europe, hepatitis C (HCV) infection is prevalent, and subsequently, is the major risk factor for acquiring HCC in these regions.¹,³ It is estimated that the incidence of HCC in Europe and United States will peak at 2020—there will be 78,000 new HCC cases in Europe and 27,000 in the United States—and decline thereafter.¹ Indeed, in Japan, the incidence of HCC had already plateaued and started to slowly fall.⁴ Cirrhosis is the most important risk factor for HCC regardless of etiology and may be caused by chronic viral hepatitis (mainly HBV and HCV), alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune disease, Stage 4 primary biliary cirrhosis, and metabolic diseases such as hereditary hemochromatosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In the Western hemisphere, HCC occurs in a background of cirrhosis in 90% of the cases.⁵ Before concentrating on diagnosis and therapeutics, it is important to discuss surveillance for this tumor.
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