OBJECTIVES: Although the etiology of liver disease affects the features of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) diagnosed during surveillance, it is not known whether it influences patients' survival. We analyzed the impact of etiology on the characteristics and outcome of HCC detected during surveillance. METHODS: In this cohort study, 742 patients with HCC detected during semiannual or annual surveillance were selected from the ITA.LI.CA database, including 1,834 consecutive patients observed in three primary and seven tertiary care settings for HCC. Patients were grouped according to etiology: hepatitis B virus (HBV, 87), hepatitis C virus (HCV, 461), alcohol (59), and multietiology (135). RESULTS: In all etiologic groups, most HCCs were unifocal (51-68%) and most of them were <or=3 cm (60-69%). Unifocal HCCs were less common in the multietiology group (P=0.050) and slightly more frequent in the HCV group (P=0.087). Besides etiology, only age was associated with gross pathology (P=0.023). About two-thirds of HCCs in all groups were discovered at Cancer of the Liver Italyn Program (CLIP) stage 0 or 1. The 1-, 3-, and 5-yr survival rates were comparable among groups (HBV 81%, 47%, and 22%; HCV 86%, 49%, and 24%; alcohol 76%, 41%, and 25%; multietiology 75%, 37%, and 24%; P=0.446). The surveillance interval did not influence survival, which was independently predicted by serum alpha-fetoprotein, Child-Pugh class, gross pathology, cancer size, vascular invasion, and treatment. CONCLUSION: In patients with HCC diagnosed during surveillance: (a) single nodules are less common in multietiology cases and (b) prognosis is independent of etiology, being dictated by liver function, oncologic features, and treatment.
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