To study the potential relationship between the hepatitis C virus (HCV), the major etiologic agent of parenterally transmitted non-A, non-B hepatitis, and the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), we tested the presence of anti-HCV antibodies in sera from a large panel of HCC patients of different racial and geographical origins. Anti-HCV antibodies were detected in 82 out of 114 (71.9%) HBsAg-negative HCC patients and in 15 out of 53 (28.3%) HBsAg-positive patients. No significant difference in the prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies was found in the HBsAg-negative HCC patients when they were divided according to presence of anti-HBs and/or anti-HBc antibodies, or absence of all hepatitis B virus (HBV) serological markers. The prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies was similar in HCC patients of Caucasian and African origin. No differences were noted when the patients were grouped according to sex. The mechanisms by which HCV might contribute to the development of HCC need to be further investigated. As for HBV infection, the necro-inflammation associated with HCV infection may induce cirrhosis, regeneration and eventually malignant transformation. The finding that few anti-HCV patients had HCC which is not superimposed on cirrhosis suggests that HCV could, however, exert some direct effect on the development of HCC.
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