Serviço de Biofísica, Instituto Biomédico de Investigação da Luz e Imagem, Coimbra, Portugal.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the fifth most common cancer in men and the seventh in women, as is diagnosed in more than half a million individuals worldwide every year. In Portugal, its incidence and mortality rates are low compared to other types of cancers. In Brazil, in the city of São Paulo, according to data released by the Brazilian Unified Health System (Sistema Único de Saúde - SUS), the incidence of primary liver cancer was 2.07/100,000 inhabitants. Although the vast majority of cases (85%) mainly affect developing countries, especially where infection by hepatitis B virus (HBV) is endemic, the incidence in developed countries is increasing. This pathology is associated with several risk factors, not only environmental but also genetic, generating an increasing interest in attaining a better understanding of this disease, which is still associated with very late diagnosis and poor prognosis. Of the available treatments, few patients benefit from their scanty advantages, increasingly stimulating research of new forms of treatment against this disease. This review aimed to briefly but fully identify risk factors, molecular and biochemical pathways, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and possible clinical approaches of hepatocellular carcinoma.