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Keywords:

  • age;
  • chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV);
  • blood transfusion;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a heterogeneous disease, the natural history of which remains controversial. There is solid evidence that chronic HCV infection is responsible for the occurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The aim of the current cohort study was to determine the rate of the development of HCC from the time of primary HCV infection and to assess the risk factors for the development of HCC in chronic posttransfusion hepatitis C patients.

METHODS

Four hundred sixty-nine patients with clinically compensated HCV, who had undergone a single blood transfusion comprised the current study cohort. Patients with other risk factors for chronic liver disease were excluded. All patients were referred to the liver center at the National Nagasaki Medical Center between December 1980 and December 1998 and were followed prospectively until the end of the analysis (June 2000).

RESULTS

Follow-up data were obtained for 445 patients. The mean duration from HCV infection to the end of the observation was 28 years. Fifty-two patients (11.1%) progressed to HCC. The mean duration from the time of blood transfusion to the diagnosis of HCC was 31 years. Multivariate Cox regression analyses revealed age, fibrosis, duration from HCV infection to study entry, and alcohol consumption to be the independent factors affecting the development of HCC. The risk of developing HCC in patients age ≥ 56 years was increased 7.8-fold compared with that in patients age < 56 years. The mean age of patients at the time of HCC diagnosis was 65 years (range, 58–79 years).

CONCLUSIONS

At the time of diagnosis, 92% of the 52 HCC patients were age > 60 years and 38 of the HCC patients (73%) were in their 60s. There was a significantly negative correlation between the duration from HCV infection to the development of HCC and the age of the patient at the time of infection (correlation coefficient = 0.702; P < 0.0001; Y = 61.1–0.82X), indicating that the age of patients, rather than the duration of HCV infection, is more significant for HCC development in patients with posttransfusion HCV. Moreover, these data may contribute to the design of an optimal follow-up schedule for patients with posttransfusion HCV. Cancer 2002;95:331–9. © 2002 American Cancer Society.

DOI 10.1002/cncr.10662