Past exposure to hepatitis B virus as a risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with chronic liver disease

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The aim of the study was to determine whether past exposure to hepatitis B virus (HBV) influences the risk of the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in Japanese patients with chronic liver disease (CLD). We conducted a hospital-based case-control study of 141 HCC patients with CLD and 151 controls with CLD but without HCC. Past exposure to HBV was assessed by antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) positivity. Ninety-two patients (65%) with HCC were anti-HBc positive compared with 65 patients (43%) with CLD alone (P < 0.01). A multivariate analysis using logistic regression modelling revealed that anti-HBc positivity significantly increased the risk of the development of HCC [odds ratio (OR) 2.0, P = 0.01]. In the anti-HBc-positive patients, a significantly increased risk of HCC was seen among the patients positive for anti-HBc alone (OR, 2.6; P < 0.01). However, a significant OR was not obtained among the patients with a transient HBV infection implied by positivity for both antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen and anti-HBc (OR, 1.5; P = 0.48). These results indicate that past exposure to HBV is a risk factor for HCC in Japanese CLD patients, especially when they have no serological evidence of immunity to HBV.

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