Background and aim: The incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has increased in Australia in recent decades, a large and growing proportion of which occurs among a population chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV). However, risk factors for HCC among these high-risk groups require further characterisation.
Methods: We conducted a population based cohort study using HBV and HCV cases notified to the New South Wales (NSW) Health Department between 2000 and 2007. These were linked to cause of death data, HIV/AIDS notifications and hospital records. Proportional hazards regression was used to identify significant risk factors for developing HCC.
Results: Two-hundred and forty-two and 339 HCC cases linked to HBV (n = 43,892) and HCV (n = 83,817) notifications, respectively. For both HBV and HCV groups, being male and increasing age were significantly associated with risk of HCC. Increasing comorbidity score indicated high risk while living outside urban areas was associated with lower risk. Hazard ratios for males were two to three times those of females. For both HBV and HCV groups, cirrhosis, alcoholic liver disease and the interaction between the two were associated with significantly and considerably elevated risk.
Conclusion: This large population-based study confirms known risk factors for HCC. The association with older age highlights the potential impact of HBV and HCV screening of at-risk groups and early clinical assessment. Additional research is required to evaluate the impact of improving antiviral therapy on HCC risk.