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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Hepatocellular carcinoma, childhood

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Your Question

What causes hepatocellular carcinoma in children? Was it environmental or genetic factors?

Our Answer

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What is hepatocellular carcinoma, childhood?

Hepatocellular carcinoma, childhood is a rare type of cancer of the liver that affects children. Symptoms may include a mass in the abdomen, swollen abdomen, abdominal pain, weight loss, poor appetite, jaundice, vomiting, fever, itchy skin, anemia, and back pain. Treatment options may vary depending on a variety of factors including the stage of the cancer.[1]
Last updated: 2/20/2009

What causes hepatocellular carcinoma, childhood?

A review of the literature suggests that knowledge regarding the cause of hepatocellular carcinoma in children is lacking due to the rarity of this disease.  Children living in regions of the world where heptatitis B virus is common have been reported to have a much greater risk of developing this disease.[2][1]  Chronic infection by hepatitis C virus has also been linked to the development of hepatocellular carcinoma.[1] Hepatocellular carcinoma has also been reported to develop in the presence of liver disease, cirrhosis, and inborn errors of metabolism.[3]

In addition, various other reported risk factors for developing hepatocellular carcinoma include: male sex, co-infection with other viral liver disease, co-infection with HIV, alcohol abuse, family history of this carcinoma, increased hepatic iron, increased serum alanine aminotransferase levels, exposure to aflatoxin B1 by food contamination, genetic variants of glutathione S-transferase, and various metabolic liver disorders.[1]

Chronic Epstein Barr virus infections have also been suggested to play a role in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma in Asian patients. This association remains to be confirmed in other populations.[4]

Last updated: 2/20/2009

How common is hepatocellular carcinoma in children?

The frequency of hepatocellular carcinoma varies significantly worldwide. Males tend to be affected more often than females and the disease is often found in older children (10-14 years).[5][1] However, hepatocellular carcinoma is generally found in adults between the ages of 40-60 years old.[3] The highest incidence of this disease is found in East Asia, followed by Africa and the Pacific Islands.  The high prevalence of hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus in these regions are thought be partially responsible for the increased frequency of hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatocellular carcinoma has also been found in individuals of other ethnic backgrounds.[5]
Last updated: 2/20/2009

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