BACKGROUND: The aetiological factors of hepatocellular carcinoma may vary over time.
AIMS: The study assessed the potential impact of the aetiological factors on the effectiveness of surveillance in real-world patients.
METHODS: Multicentre, cross-sectional study enrolling consecutive hepatocellular carcinoma cases during a six month period.
RESULTS: 1733 cases (1311 prevalent and 422 incident) were recruited (mean age 68.6 years; 46.1% cases over 70 years; 73.9% males; 95.3% with cirrhosis); 63.0% were hepatitis C virus positive and 23.7% were virus negative. Amongst incident HCCs, 34.5% were single ≤3cm and 54.4% met the Milan criteria; 61.6% were diagnosed during surveillance; virus negative patients showed the lowest rate of surveillance (51.0%). Surveillance was an independent predictor of detecting single HCCs ≤2cm (O.R.=5.4; 95% C.I.=2.4-12.4) or HCCs meeting the Milan criteria (O.R.=3.1; 95% C.I.=1.9-5.2). Compared with an earlier Italian survey, there was a higher proportion of elderly subjects (P<0.01), Child-Pugh class A cases (P<0.01), of virus-negative patients (P<0.01) and with single tumours ≤3cm (P<0.01) and a lower prevalence of hepatitis C virus positive individuals (P<0.01).
CONCLUSION: HCC is characterised by a growing prevalence of elderly patients and cases unrelated to hepatitis virus infections. The application of surveillance must be implemented, particularly amongst non-viral patients.