Liver cancer incidence has increased over time in the United States, and chronic infection with the hepatitis C virus now plays an important role in many cases. These results were published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
The liver is the largest organ in the body and is responsible for many vital functions. Among other things, the liver removes harmful substances from the blood, contributes to the digestion of food, and stores nutrients and energy.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer (cancer that begins in the liver). Factors that increase the risk of developing HCC include long-term, heavy alcohol use and chronic infection with hepatitis B or C viruses.
Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Historically, rates of HCC have been lower in the United States than in other countries, but the disease is on the rise.
To explore trends in HCC in a single, well-defined population, researchers collected information about liver cancer cases diagnosed in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Information was available about 104 people who had been diagnosed between 1976 and 2008.
These results provide additional evidence that the frequency of liver cancer has increased sharply in the US, and that chronic infection with hepatitis C is a major contributor.
Reference: Yang JD, Kim B, Sanderson SO et al. Hepatocellular carcinoma in Olmsted County, Minnesota, 1976-2008. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2012;87:9-16.