Risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma and its incidence after interferon treatment in patients with chronic hepatitis C



To elucidate the risk factors for liver carcinogenesis and to examine the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) after interferon therapy, 1,022 chronic hepatitis C patients treated with interferon were followed by ultrasonography for 13 to 97 months (median 36 months). Sustained response with prolonged alanine aminotransferase normalization was found in 313 patients, transient response with alanine aminotransferase relapse after therapy in 304, and no response in 405. Forty-six developed HCC, of whom 5 were sustained responders, 9 were transient responders, and 32 were nonresponders. The cumulative incidence of HCC in transient responders was almost equal to that in sustained responders, and it was significantly higher in nonresponders than in sustained and transient responders (P = .0009). The seventh-year cumulative incidence rates of HCC in sustained responders, transient responders, and nonresponders were estimated to be 4.3%, 4.7%, and 26.1%, respectively. However, there was no significant difference in the cumulative incidence of HCC between patients with HCV subtype 1 and 2 (P = .14). Cox regression analysis showed that the risk of HCC development was not elevated in transient responders compared with sustained responders, but that the risk was 7.90-fold higher in nonresponders than in sustained responders (P = .008). Patients ≥55 years of age had a significantly higher risk ratio (4.65) than did those under 55 years of age (P = .006). The risk of HCC development in men was 4.35 times higher than the risk in women (P = .02). However, the degree of fibrosis was not a significant risk factor for the development of HCC (risk ratio, 3.16; P = .052). These results suggest that patients in the high-risk group of HCC after interferon therapy were those who showed no response, those who were older, and those who were male, and that such patients should be carefully followed using ultrasonography.