▪ Objective: To determine whether chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is an independent risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma and whether it increases the cirrhosis-related risk for hepatocellular carcinoma.
▪ Design: Two pair-matched case-control studies.
▪ Setting: A referral-based hospital.
▪ Patients: In study I, 212 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (197 of whom had known underlying cirrhosis) were compared with controls who had chronic nonhepatic diseases. In study II, the 197 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis were compared with 197 pair-matched controls who had cirrhosis but not hepatocellular carcinoma.
▪ Measurements: Levels of antibody to HCV (anti-HCV), hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), and antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) were assayed, and alcohol abuse was assessed by history.
▪ Main Results: In study I, 151 patients (71%) with hepatocellular carcinoma were anti-HCV positive compared with 11 controls (5%) with chronic nonhepatic diseases (odds ratio, 42; 95% CI, 22 to 95). Multivariate analysis showed that anti-HCV was an independent risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (odds ratio, 69; CI, 15 to 308). The analysis also showed that HBsAg (odds ratio, 8.7; CI, 1.5 to 50) and anti-HBc (odds ratio, 4.2 (CI, 1.7 to 11) were risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma. No statistically significant interaction was found between anti-HCV and the markers of HBV infection. In study II, 146 patients (74%) with hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis were anti-HCV positive compared with 122 patients (62%) with cirrhosis alone (odds ratio, 1.8; CI, 1.1 to 2.8). Multivariate analysis confirmed that anti-HCV (odds ratio, 2.0; CI, 1.3 to 32) and HBsAg (odds ratio, 2.0; CI, 1.0 to 4.2) were independent risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma.
▪ Conclusions: Hepatitis C virus infection is a risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma, apparently by inducing cirrhosis and, to a lesser extent, by enhancing the risk in patients with cirrhosis. Hepatitis C virus infection acts independently of HBV infection (another risk factor) and of alcohol abuse, age, or gender.