Liver Cancer Incidence is on the Rise in the United States
From 2001 to 2006, the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) increased significantly with an average increase of 3.5% annually. This analysis was recently reported in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The liver is the largest organ in the body and is responsible for over 500 functions, including the secretion of glucose, proteins, vitamins, and fats; the production of bile; the processing of hemoglobin; and detoxification of numerous substances. 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.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Historically, the rates of HCC have been lower in the United States than in other countries; however, the disease is on the rise. The incidence of liver cancer in the United States tripled between 1975 and 2005, but survival rates are improving, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
To evaluate the most current data on HCC incidence, researchers analyzed HCC cases from 2001-2006 from the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries as well as from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) system. In 2001, the average annual incidence rate of HCC was 2.7 per 100,000 people and increased to 3.2 in 2006. The researchers also reported that HCC incidence was three times higher for males than females. When the researchers looked at incidence of HCC by race or age, the largest increases in incidence from 2001 to 2006 were among whites, blacks, and individuals between 50 and 59 years old. The researchers also reported that the lowest incidence of HCC is in the state of South Dakota and the highest is in Hawaii.
The incidence of HCC increased from 2001 to 2006 in the United States. Results from other studies suggest that diabetes prevention as well as avoidance of heavy alcohol use and hepatitis B and C virus infections could make an important contribution to HCC prevention in the United States.
 O’Connor S, Ward JW, Watson M, Momin B, and Richardson LC. Hepatocellular Carcinoma- United States 2001-2006. MMWR. 2010;59:517-520.
 Altekruse SF, McGlynn KA, Reichman ME. Hepatocellular carcinoma incidence, mortality, and survival trends in the United States from 1975 to 2005. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2009; 27: 1485-1491.