Prospective analysis of risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with liver cirrhosis



Better knowledge of the risk factors associated with the appearance of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) could improve the efficacy of surveillance programs. A total of 463 patients aged 40 to 65 years with liver cirrhosis in Child-Pugh class A or B were included in a program of early diagnosis. The predictive value of different risk factors was evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier method and Cox regression model. Thirty-eight patients developed HCC. In the multivariate analysis, 4 variables showed an independent predictive value for the development of HCC: age 55 years or older, antibody to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) positivity, prothrombin activity 75% or less, and platelet count less than 75 × 103/mm3. According to the contribution of each of these factors to the final model, a score ranging between 0 and 4.71 points was constructed to allow the division of patients into 2 different risk groups. The low-risk group included those with a score of 2.33 points or less (n = 270; 4 with HCC; cumulative incidence of HCC at 4 years, 2.3%), and the high-risk group included those with a score greater than 2.33 (n = 193; 34 with HCC; cumulative incidence of HCC at 4 years, 30.1%) (P = .0001). In conclusion, a simple score made up of 4 clinical and biological variables allowed us to distinguish 2 groups of cirrhotic patients at high and low risk for the development of HCC. We believe this score can be useful in establishing a subset of cirrhotic patients in whom a surveillance program for early detection of HCC could be unjustified.