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Hepatic Steatosis Is a Significant Risk Factor for Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Patients with Chronic HCV

Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) is one of the histopathologic features of chronic hepatitis C. It was reported recently that the expression of hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein in transgenic mice induced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in association with steatosis.

The objective of this study was to determine the relation between hepatic steatosis and hepatocarcinogenesis (origin of liver cancer) in patients with chronic HCV infection.

The authors studied 161 patients with chronic HCV infection who were diagnosed at Nagasaki University Hospital, Nagasaki, Japan, between January 1980 and December 1999. Age, gender, body mass index (BMI), habitual drinking, diabetes mellitus, serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level, HCV serotype, serum level of HCV core protein, interferon (IFN) treatment, hepatic fibrosis inflammation, and hepatic steatosis were studied with regard to their significance in the development of HCC using univariate and multivariate analyses.

The cumulative incidence rates of HCC were 24%, 51%, and 63% at 5 years, 10 years, and 15 years, respectively. Multivariate analysis identified hepatic steatosis, together with aging, cirrhosis, and no IFN treatment, as independent and significant risk factors for HCC (P = 0.0135, P = 0.0390, P = 0.0068, and P = 0.0142, respectively). In addition, hepatic steatosis was correlated with BMI, serum ALT levels, and triglyceride levels.

The findings of the current study indicate that hepatic steatosis is a risk factor for HCC in patients with chronic HCV infection. Patients with chronic HCV and hepatic steatosis should be monitored carefully for HCC.

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