Decreasing disparity in liver transplantation among white and Asian patients with hepatocellular carcinoma

California, 1998-2005


  • The ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors, and endorsement by the State of California, Department of Public Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or their contractors and subcontractors is not intended nor should be concluded.

  • The collection of cancer incidence data used in this study was supported by the California Department of Public Health as part of the statewide cancer reporting program mandated by California Health and Safety Code Section 103885; the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program under contract N01-PC-35136 awarded to the Northern California Cancer Center, contract N01-PC-35139 awarded to the University of Southern California, and contract N01-PC-54404 awarded to the Public Health Institute (PHI); and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Program of Cancer Registries under agreement 1U58DP00807-01 awarded to the PHI.



A preliminary study using national cancer surveillance data from 1998 through 2002 suggested that there were significant differences between non-Hispanic whites (‘whites’) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (APIs) in the use of liver transplantation as a treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).


The objective of the current study was to examine whether differences in liver transplantation between whites and APIs with HCC were changing over time. By using a population-based, statewide cancer registry, data were obtained on all HCC cases diagnosed in California between 1998 and 2005, and the study was limited to white and API patients with nonmetastatic HCC who had tumors that measured ≤5 cm in greatest dimension (n = 1728 patients).


From 1998 through 2003 (n = 1051 patients), the odds of undergoing liver transplantation were 2.56 times greater for white patients than for API patients (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.72–3.80 times higher), even after adjusting for age, sex, marital status, year of diagnosis, TNM stage, and tumor grade. In contrast, during 2004 and 2005 (n = 677 patients), there were no significant differences in the odds of undergoing liver transplantation. Between 2002 and 2004, changes in liver transplantation policy assigned priority points to patients with HCC (initially to stage I and II, then to stage II only). After the policy changes, API patients with HCC experienced a significant increase in stage II diagnoses, whereas white patients did not.


In California, there was a large and significant disparity in the rate of liver transplantation among white and API patients with HCC from 1998 through 2003 but not during 2004 and 2005. Changes in liver transplantation policy from 2002 through 2004 may have played a role in decreasing this difference. Cancer 2008. © 2008 American Cancer Society.