Nested case–control study: hepatocellular carcinoma risk after hepatitis B surface antigen seroclearance

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Abstract

Background

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) risk after resolving chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is unclear.

Aim

To compare HCC risk between Alaska Native (AN) patients with and without hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) seroclearance.

Methods

We selected persons with (case-patients) and without (control-patients) HBsAg seroclearance from a cohort of 1346 chronically HBV-infected AN patients followed during 1982−2013. We attempted to match two control-patients/case-patient on sex, HBV genotype, and age. Person-years of follow-up for case-patients began on the date of HBsAg resolution and for control-patients began on the date equivalent to the cohort entry date plus the years of HBsAg duration for their corresponding case-patient. We compared HCC risk using a Cox proportional hazards model.

Results

The 238 case-patients (4 with HCC) and 435 control-patients (9 with HCC) were similar in age [P-value (P) = 0.30], sex (P = 0.53) and HBV genotype (P = 0.99). Case-patients had longer person-years of follow-up than control-patients (11.7 vs. 10.1 years; P = 0.04). The HCC rate/100 000 persons was similar between case- (132) and control-patients (178; P = 0.65). The adjusted hazard ratio comparing case- and control-patients was similar for HCC [0.7; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.2–2.4], increased for each 1-year increment for age (1.1; CI: 1.0–1.1; P < 0.01), and was greater if the initial HBeAg was positive (3.5; CI: 1.1–11.0; P = 0.03).

Conclusions

Hepatitis B surface antigen seroclearance was not associated with reduced HCC risk; the HCC risk estimates are limited by wide 95% confidence intervals. Persons meeting HCC surveillance indications prior to HBsAg seroclearance could benefit from continued surveillance after seroclearance.

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