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Prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma: a concise review of contemporary issues

Vincent Wai-Sun Wong, Henry Lik-Yuen Chan

Abstract

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men. Due to differences in the prevalence of viral hepatitis, the incidence of HCC in low and middle income countries is much higher than that of high income countries. Strategies to limit the impact of HCC include primary prevention against new cases of viral hepatitis, secondary prevention of HCC in susceptible individuals, and early HCC detection. Universal hepatitis B vaccination has resulted in dramatic reduction in incident cases of chronic hepatitis B and HCC in children and adolescents, and the full effect is expected in the next 20 years. The key hurdle for universal vaccination is the cost and the accessibility in low and middle income countries. Randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses showed that successful treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C can reduce the risk of HCC and cirrhotic complications. HCC surveillance by regular ultrasound examination and alpha fetoprotein testing leads to early cancer detection and offers the opportunity for curative treatment. Since all these measures are costly and require manpower and infrastructure support, the implementation should rely on the liaison among healthcare providers and policymakers. The cost-effectiveness of various strategies should also be studied based on local situations.

Key words. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Liver neoplasms, Antiviral agents, Hepatitis B vaccines

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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