Mutations in the HFE gene and their interaction with exogenous risk factors in hepatocellular carcinoma

Silvia Fargion, Maria Antonietta Stazi, Anna Ludovica Fracanzani, Michela Mattioli, Maurizio Sampietro, Dario Tavazzi, Cristina Bertelli, Valeria Patriarca, Chiara Mariani, Gemino Fiorelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The possible role of iron in facilitating the development of liver cancer is still debated. The aims of this study were to define the prevalence of the mutations 845G → A and 187C → G (C282Y and H63D) in the HFE gene associated with hereditary hemochromatosis in Italian patients with hepatocellular carcinoma occurring in cirrhosis and to analyze the interaction between these mutations and other established risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma. The HFE gene mutations, performed by polymerase chain reaction, were analyzed in 81 patients (63 males, 18 females) with hepatocellular carcinoma. None of the patients had a phenotype compatible with homozygous hereditary hemochromatosis. Interaction between HFE mutations and exogenous risk factors was analyzed by collecting information on alcohol consumption, hepatitis B and C virus infections, and iron status at the time of diagnosis of chronic liver disease. This analysis was performed only in males to rule out gender influence on patients' iron status by using the case-only approach specifically designed to estimate departure from multiplicative risk ratios under the assumption of independence between genotype and environmental exposure. The prevalence of the C282Y mutation was significantly higher in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma than in normal controls (8.6% vs 1.6%, P <0.03). At univariate analysis, iron overload was significantly associated with both HFE mutations (P <0.0001), whereas ongoing hepatitis B virus infection was associated with the C282Y mutation (P <0.05). By multivariate analysis, a trend for an increased risk of being positive for hepatitis virus markers (OR 2.9, CI 95% 0.9-9.5) and of having been alcohol abusers (OR 3, CI 95% 0.7-14) was observed in patients heterozygous for the HFE mutations. These data indicate that the prevalence of the main mutation associated with hereditary hemochromatosis is significantly higher in cirrhotic Italian patients with hepatocellular carcinoma compared to a normal population and suggest that heterozygotes for HFE mutations exposed to hepatitis virus infections or who had been alcohol abusers could have an increased risk of developing cirrhosis and later liver cancer than people without the mutations exposed to the same risk factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-511
Number of pages7
JournalBlood cells, molecules & diseases
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Alcohol abuse
  • C282Y H63D mutations
  • HBV
  • HCV infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Hematology


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