Summary. It is controversial whether past hepatitis B virus infection constitutes an additional risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) among patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV). The incidence of HCC between 1994 and 2004 was analysed among 1262 patients who were only positive for HCV. The cumulative incidence of HCC was assessed by Kaplan–Meier analysis and the difference between two groups was assessed by the log-rank test. The effect of anti-HBc positivity on the risk of HCC was assessed with multivariate Cox proportional analysis. Anti-HBc was positive in 522 (41.4%) patients. The proportion of male patients (56.7 vs 46.8%, P < 0.001) and mean age (60.8 vs 56.9 years, P < 0.001) were significantly higher in the anti-HBc positive group. HCC developed in 339 patients (mean follow-up 7.0 years), with cumulative incidence rates at 3, 5 and 10 years of 12.7, 24.5 and 41.9% in the anti-HBc positive group and 10.6, 17.7 and 33.4% in the negative group, respectively (P = 0.005). However, anti-HBc seropositivity did not reach statistical significance in multivariate analysis including age and gender (hazard ratio, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.85–1.31; P = 0.63). Anti-HBc positivity and HCC incidence were confounded by male gender and older age.