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Antiviral therapy and primary and secondary prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma


Teresa L. Wright, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA. Email:


Viral hepatitis due to chronic hepatitis B and C virus (HBV/HCV) infects more than 500 000 000 individuals worldwide. These chronic viral diseases are highly linked to the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the fifth most common cause of cancer death worldwide. HCC is much more common in Asia and Africa than in the USA and Europe, although HCC is one of the few cancers with a rising incidence in the USA. There are 530 000 cases of HCC worldwide of which 82% are related to viral hepatitis. 316 000 cases of HCC are HBV-associated, 118 000 are HCV-associated. The most effective way to prevent HCC is to prevent viral infection through immunization. Currently there are effective vaccinesagainst hepatitis B and A, but not against HCV, the virus that accounts for most HCC in the USA. The published work supporting the use of antiviral therapy in preventing liver cancer is limited. Data supporting the use of antiviral therapy in preventing recurrence of HCC after initial anticancer approaches is even less available. Nevertheless, the weight of evidence suggests that treatment of HBV/HCV-related fibrosis will reduce the risk of developing HCC.