Trends in the Incidence of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Washington DC: A Single Institutional Cohort Study (1959–2013)

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The African American (AA) community in Washington DC is at an elevated risk for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) that has a dismal prognosis. The recent rapid increase in the incidence and diagnosis of HCC and liver metastases (LM) in DC prompted us to evaluate the past six decades of this incidence and some of its underlying causes using a single institutional cohort in a hospital located in the center of the city. Electronic medical and pathology records of 454 liver cancer patients from 1959 to 2013 at Howard University Hospital (HUH) were reviewed. Demographic, clinical and pathology characteristics were examined, and statistical analysis was performed using Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Incidence of HCC rose substantially between 1959 and 2013, increasing eight-fold from 1.05 to 8.0 per 100,000 AAs. The rate of increase in the last decade was highest at 550%. Cases were disproportionately male (67.2%), and median age at diagnosis was 57 years. Towards the last decade, the most common etiology for HCC was nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) followed by NAFLD/HCV combination. Liver cancer was clustered in the eastern region of DC in wards 4, 5, 7, and 8. Cases of liver metastases clinically diagnosed and confirmed by biopsies increased 96.4% from 1959 to 1968 to 2009-2013. This study confirms that HCC incidence has been increasing (initially driven by HCV, and NAFLD in the latter decades) more rapidly in DC than previously believed, highlighting the impact of case definitions especially regarding NAFLD in the context of changing diagnostic approaches including the revised ICD10. The rising burden, disproportionate population distribution, and low survival rate among AAs emphasize the importance of prevention and early detection as a public health imperative.

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