The risk of liver cancer in autoimmune liver diseases

Ana Lleo, Ynto S. de Boer, Rodrigo Liberal, Massimo Colombo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the dominant primary malignancy of the liver, has almost invariably a fatal outcome that can be averted only by early diagnosis and treatment. While the close association of HCC with chronic viral hepatitis and alcohol abuse has impacted favourably on screening and treatment of this deadly tumour, at the same time it has long obscured the etiologic role of autoimmune liver diseases. Recently, a systematic analysis of 25 published cohorts disclosed a 3.1 × 1000 patients/year incidence of HCC in autoimmune hepatitis patients that tripled in those with cirrhosis. HCC is also a sequela of primary biliary cholangitis, where the incidence is more relevant in males, those with advanced liver disease and nonresponders to ursodeoxycholic acid therapy. Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), the second ranking primary cancer of the liver, is also on the rise with its intrahepatic pattern, in part reflecting an association with chronic liver diseases of diverse aetiology. In the USA and northern Europe, perihilar CCA is a frequent complication of primary sclerosing cholangitis, a cholestatic disorder thought to be immune mediated. International Guidelines clearly recommend HCC screening with abdominal ultrasonography every 6 months in autoimmune cirrhotic patients. While surveillance of patients with autoimmune liver disorders who are at risk of HCC affects both early diagnosis and radical therapy of this tumour, this is not the case for CCA, where early diagnosis is challenged by the lack of sensitive and accurate tests for screening.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTherapeutic advances in medical oncology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • autoimmune hepatitis
  • autoimmune liver diseases
  • cholangiocarcinoma
  • hepatic cancer
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • primary biliary cholangitis
  • primary sclerosing cholangitis

Cite this