Volume 61, Issue 5
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) may occur in family clusters. No genetic mechanism has been identified as responsible for this familial tendency. We suspected that a longer hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication phase might be the reason for a higher risk of HCC in families with this disease. We performed liver biochemical tests, test for viral hepatitis markers and hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg), and liver ultrasonography in relatives of patients with HCC. A total of 1,885 first-degree relatives from 688 families participated in this study. Seven hundred fifty-two relatives were found to be carriers of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and 675 of them were tested for HBeAg. The prevalence of HBeAg was 27.4% in relatives of those with HCC and 20% in asymptomatic HBsAg carriers. The HBeAg prevalence rate was higher in relatives of those with HCC > or = 40 years old than in asymptomatic HBsAg carriers. Moreover, HBeAg was more likely to persist in men than in women > or = 40 years old. We conclude that families with HCC showed a prolonged HBV replication phase that may be one of the cofactors for a familial tendency for HCC.


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