BACKGROUND: While the likelihood of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients coinfected with both HBV and HCV is increased, the role of previous exposure to HBV as a risk factor associated with tumor occurrence in subjects with HCV-related cirrhosis has not been fully investigated. AIM: To assess whether serum anti-HBc positivity, as a marker of previous HBV exposure, is associated with HCC development in HCV-related positive, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) negative patients with cirrhosis treated with alfa-interferon (IFN) monotherapy. PATIENTS AND: A database including 883 consecutive patients (557 men, mean age 54.7 yr) with histologically METHODS: proven cirrhosis treated with IFN between 1992 and 1997 was analyzed. All subjects have been surveilled every 6 months by ultrasound. Independent predictors of HCC were assessed by Cox multiple regression analysis. RESULTS: Mean follow-up was 96.1 months. Anti-HBc testing was available in 693 cases and, among them, 303 patients (43.7%) were anti-HBc seropositive. Anti-HBc positive patients were more often men (67.0% vs 58.7%, P = 0.03), had lower transaminase levels (3.3 ± 2.0 vs 3.8 ± 2.5 u.l.n., P = 0.004), and had higher rate of alcohol intake (38.3% vs 22.5%, P <0.001) than anti-HBc negative patients. Overall, the incidence rates of HCC per 100 person-years were 1.84 (95% CI 1.34-2.47) in the anti-HBc positive patients and 1.86 (95% CI 1.41-2.42) in anti-HBc negative ones. By Cox multiple regression, there was no association of serum anti-HBc with HCC development (HR 1.03, 95% CI 0.69-1.52) or liver-related deaths incidence (HR 1.21; 95% CI 0.76-1.95). CONCLUSIONS: In comparison with anti-HBc negative subjects, serum anti-HBc positive patients with HCV-related/HBsAg negative cirrhosis treated with IFN monotherapy did not show a greater risk of HCC.
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