Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer in the world, and has a wide geographical variation. Eighty per cent of HCC is attributed to hepatitis B virus (HBV). The predominant carcinogenic mechanism of HBV associated HCC is through the process of liver cirrhosis, but direct oncogenic effects of HBV may also contribute. Prevention of HBV infections as well as effective treatment of chronic hepatitis B is still needed for the global control of HBV associated HCC. Continued investigation of the mechanisms of hepatocarcinogenesis will refine our current understanding of the molecular and cellular basis for neoplastic transformation in the liver.