OBJECTIVES: There is large geographic variation in incidence levels and time trends of hepatocellular carcinoma. We compared population-based liver cancer incidence and survival in European and U.S. populations in order to elucidate geographic differences and time trends for these variables. METHODS: Since comparisons based on cancer registry data are problematic because of variations in liver cancer definition and coding, we considered a subset of cases likely to be mainly hepatocellular carcinoma, suitable for international comparison. Incidence and 5-yr relative survival were calculated from cases diagnosed in five European regions (30,423 cases) and the United States (6,976 cases) in 1982-1994. RESULTS: Age-standardized incidence was highest in southern Europe (12/100,000 in men and 3/100,000 in women in 1992-94) and lowest in northern Europe, where incidence was similar to that of the United States (3/100,000 in men, <1/100,000 in women). Over the study period, incidence remained stable in the United States and most of Europe, except for a notable increase in southern Europe. Five-year relative survival was <10% in Europe, ranging from 8% (southern Europe) to 5% (eastern Europe), and 6% in the United States. Survival increased slightly with time, mainly in southern Europe and was unaffected by sex, but was better in younger patients. CONCLUSIONS: Increasing incidence in southern Europe is probably related to hepatitis B and C infection and increasing alcohol intake, while improving survival may be due to greater surveillance for cirrhosis. The survival gap between clinical and population-based series suggests management is better in centers of excellence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas