Background/Aims: Although the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has been shown to be reduced after pegylated glycol-interferon plus ribavirin (Peg-IFN/RBV) therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C, the risk factors for the development of HCC are not fully understood. The aim of this study was to clarify the incidence and the risk factors for the development of HCC after Peg-IFN/RBV therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Methodology: A total of 474 patients with chronic hepatitis C who received Peg-IFN/RBV therapy between December 2004 and August 2010 were enrolled and followed in a multicenter trial. The patients were assessed for HCC by either ultrasound or computed tomography every 6 months. The incidence and risk factors for the development of HCC were identified. Results: Of the 474 patients, 23 developed HCC during a median follow-up of 4 years and 8 months (range 1-6 years and 3 months) after completion of Peg-IFN/RBV therapy. According to a univariate analysis, higher age, low platelet counts, a low level of serum albumin, a high level of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and a sustained viral response (SVR) to Peg-IFN/RBV therapy were independent factors associated with the occurrence of HCC. The multivariate analysis using the Cox proportional hazard model revealed the risk factors for HCC were the platelet count, AFP level and the outcome of Peg-IFN/RBV therapy. Conclusions: To reduce the incidence of HCC in chronic hepatitis C, attainment of a sustained response rate is an essential issue. For patients with low platelet counts and/or a high AFP level, strict surveillance should be continued even after eradication of HCV because the risk of HCC was found to be higher for these patients.
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