Department of Pathology, Virology and Molecular Biology Unit, Istituto Nazionale Tumori- IRCCS Fondazione G. Pascale, Naples, Italy
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most prevalent primary malignant tumors and accounts for about 90% of all primary liver cancers. Its distribution varies greatly according to geographic location and it is more common in middle and low- income countries than in developed ones especially in Eastern Asia and Sub Saharan Africa (70% of all new HCCs worldwide), with incidence rates of over 20 per 100,000 individuals.
The most important risk factors for HCC are Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) infection, Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection, excessive consumption of alcohol and exposition to aflatoxin B1. Its geographic variability and heterogeneity have been widely associated with the different distribution of HBV and HCV infections worldwide.
Chronic HBV infection is one of the leading risk factors for HCC globally accounting for at least 50% cases of primary liver tumors worldwide. Generally, while HBV is the main causative agent in the high incidence HCC areas, HCV is the major etiological factor in low incidence HCC areas, like Western Europe and North America.
HBV-induced HCC is a complex, stepwise process that includes integration of HBV DNA into host DNA at multiple or single sites. On the contrary, the cancerogenesis mechanism of HCV is not completely known and it still remains controversial as to whether HCV itself plays a direct role in the development of tumorigenic progression.
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