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Hepatic steatosis and the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in chronic hepatitis C


Jacob George, Storr Liver Unit, Westmead Millennium Institute, Westmead Hospital, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia. Email:


Background and Aim:  Obesity associated hepatic steatosis has been suggested to have a premalignant potential. We determined whether hepatic steatosis predisposes to liver cancer in persons with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.

Methods:  We compared the histological severity of steatosis in the index liver biopsies of 25 patients with chronic hepatitis C who subsequently developed hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with matched controls who did not. Cases were aged (mean) 54.7 years, 84% males, 76% genotype 1, and 64% fibrosis stage 4; and controls were matched for these characteristics. Those with a sustained virologic response to antiviral therapy were excluded.

Results:  Duration of HCV infection, concomitant alcohol intake, body mass index and indices of past hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection were comparable between the groups. Controls were followed for a longer period after the index liver biopsy than were cases (113 months vs 55 months, P < 0.001). As determined by percentage area of biopsy core occupied by steatosis on computer assisted morphometric evaluation, and graded by semiquantitative histological assessment, steatosis was comparable among cases and controls. The odds of developing HCC among those with steatosis grades 1 and 2 did not differ significantly from those without steatosis. There was no association between increasing morphometric percentage area occupied by steatosis and the subsequent development of HCC. Neither steatosis grade or percent area of steatosis on biopsy were selected in multivariate regression analysis as independent predictors for the development of HCC.

Conclusions:  Hepatic steatosis does not augment the risk of hepatocarcinogenesis in patients with chronic HCV infection.

© 2005 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd