Background: Alcoholic hepatitis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) show different clinical features with similar liver histology, but both disorders may progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HCC arising in alcoholic liver disease (ALD) or NASH, without hepatitis B or C virus infection, has been a rare observation, and there are no studies comparing the characteristics of ALD and NASH patients with HCC. Therefore, we compared the characteristics of ALD and NASH patients with HCC.
Methods: A total of 1202 patients received a diagnosis of HCC at Tokyo Women's Medical University from 1989 to 2003, and their clinical data were collected prospectively. A clinical diagnosis was made to diagnose ALD, and clinical and histological changes were required to diagnose NASH. Of these patients, 88 received a diagnosis of HCC arising from ALD. Among them, a biopsy specimen was obtained in 50 patients (ALD-HCC group). We compared the clinical and histological characteristics of 50 ALD and 8 NASH patients (NASH-HCC group) associated with HCC. They all were negative for hepatitis virus infection by serological methods.
Results: The most significant difference between these groups was sex. Women were significantly more common in the NASH-HCC group (6% vs. 63%; p < 0.0001). The median age was 65 years in the ALD-HCC group and 68 years in the NASH-HCC group. The risk factors for NASH all were high in the NASH-HCC group. However, liver function tests were similar in these groups. In the ALD-HCC group, 46 (92%) patients showed severe fibrosis; 2 had septal fibrosis and 44 had cirrhosis. All patients in the NASH-HCC group showed severe fibrosis, and seven had cirrhosis.
Conclusions: Severe fibrosis might be an important risk factor for HCC. Patients who have ALD or NASH with cirrhosis may develop HCC. This seems to occur in a sufficient number of cases to warrant regular screening for this complication.