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Hepatitis B and C: Risk of Liver Cancer

Topic Overview

People who are infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C (HCV) virus may develop a chronic infection that can lead to cirrhosis. The damage that results increases the risk of liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).

If you have chronic HBV infection:

  • You may develop liver cancer even if you do not have cirrhosis. But most people who have HBV and liver cancer also have cirrhosis.
  • Receiving antiviral therapy to treat chronic HBV infection may lower your risk for developing liver cancer.

If you have chronic HCV infection:

  • The strain (genotype) of HCV infection does not appear to affect your risk for developing liver cancer.
  • You are not at significant risk of developing cancer unless you also already have cirrhosis.
  • You are at greatly increased risk of liver cancer if you have alcohol-related cirrhosis in addition to hepatitis.
  • Receiving antiviral therapy to treat chronic HCV infection may lower your risk for developing liver cancer.

Screening with ultrasound of the liver, liver function tests, and blood tests (including alpha-fetoprotein [AFP]) every 6 to 12 months is recommended for people at risk of liver cancer.

Credits

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
W. Thomas London MD - Hepatology

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