Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common neoplasm in the world and the third most common cause of cancer death worldwide. More than 500,000 deaths per year are attributed to HCC, representing 10% of all deaths from cancer. In select areas of Asia and Africa, HCC is the most common cause of death due to cancer. The incidence in Europe and the United States is relatively low but is increasing. In Europe, HCC is now the leading cause of death among patients with cirrhosis. In the United States, epidemiologic studies have demonstrated a doubling of HCC incidence over the past two decades. This increase, which has been attributed to the increasing prevalence of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, is expected to continue over the next two decades, given the lag time between the onset of chronic hepatitis and development of HCC.
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