BACKGROUND & AIMS - It is not fully elucidated whether obesity enhances hepatocarcinogenesis in patients with chronic hepatitis C. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between body weight and risk of hepatocarcinogenesis in chronic hepatitis C patients.
METHODS - We enrolled 1431 patients with chronic hepatitis C who visited our liver clinic between 1994 and 2004, excluding those with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) at their visit or with a previous history of HCC. They were divided into 4 groups according to body mass index (BMI): underweight (< or =18.5 kg/m(2), N = 112); normal (18.5 to less than 25 kg/m(2), N = 1023); overweight (25 to less than 30 kg/m(2), N = 265); and obese (>30 kg/m(2), N = 31). We assessed the impact of obesity on the hepatocarcinogenesis adjusted by multivariate Cox proportional hazard regression with other risk factors found significant in univariate analysis.
RESULTS - During the follow-up period (mean, 6.1 y), HCC developed in 340 patients, showing cumulative incidence rates of 10.5%, 19.7%, and 36.8% at 3, 5, and 10 years, respectively. The incidence differed significantly among the BMI groups (P = .007). Adjusting for other significant factors, overweight and obesity were shown to be an independent risk factor of HCC, with a hazard ratio of 1.86 (95% confidence interval, 1.09-3.16; P = .022) and 3.10 (95% confidence interval, 1.41-6.81; P = .005) as compared with the underweight patients.
CONCLUSIONS - The risk of HCC in patients with chronic hepatitis C increases in proportion to BMI in a wide range of its values, from underweight to obese.