How is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) prevented?

Updated: Jan 31, 2021
  • Author: Luca Cicalese, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: John Geibel, MD, MSc, DSc, AGAF  more...
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Although it is currently one of the most common worldwide causes of cancer death, a major impact on the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma should be achieved through current vaccination strategies for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Assuming that present HBV vaccination trends continue, between 2020 and 2050, the number of new HBV infections is estimated to drop by 70%. [29]

Additional primary prevention approaches include decreasing harmful use of alcohol, implementation of safe injection and transfusion practices, improved diagnoses of chronic infections, and increased treatment for HBV and HCV including increased accessibility and affordability of the highly effective HCV antiviral medication. [29]

Analysis of patients from the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-term Treatment against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) trial found that in patients with chronic hepatitis C who did not have a sustained virologic response to therapy, long-term pegylated interferon therapy does not reduce the incidence of HCC. [96]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends one-time HCV testing for everyone born from 1945 to 1965 because this cohort  accounts for about three-fourths of HCV-infected individuals in the US. Preventive measures for HBV and HCV infection recommended by the CDC include screening of donated blood, organs, and tissues; adherence to infection control practices during medical and dental procedures; needle-exchange programs for injection drug users; and practicing safe sex. [97]

Other preventive approaches include programs to reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes. [19]  A nationwide study in Sweden reported low-dose aspirin use reduced the risk of HCC in patients with chronic viral hepatitis by 31% and reduced the risk of liver-related death by 27%. [98, 99]

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