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Metabolic Syndrome Linked to Distinct Liver Cancers

In patients with syndrome, hepatocellular carcinoma often develops without major liver fibrosis

WEDNESDAY, Mar. 4 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with hepatocellular carcinoma whose only risk factor for liver disease is evidence of metabolic syndrome, the cancer typically occurs without significant fibrosis in the surrounding liver, according to research published in the March issue of Hepatology.

Valerie Paradis, M.D., Ph.D., of the Hopital Beaujon in Clichy, France, and colleagues analyzed data from 128 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), who were divided into three groups: those with an overt cause of chronic liver disease (e.g., hepatitis B or C infection or chronic alcohol use), those with metabolic syndrome features as the only risk factor, and those with no evident risk factors.

Patients with metabolic syndrome were more likely to have background liver that was free of significant fibrosis, compared to the overt-cause group, the researchers report. In addition, the HCCs were more often well-differentiated in the metabolic syndrome group compared to the overt-cause group, the investigators found.

"This study demonstrates that the development of HCC in patients with features of metabolic syndrome as the only risk factor for chronic liver disease has distinct characteristics and occurs, in most cases, in the absence of significant liver fibrosis. In addition, in some cases, HCCs may arise from malignant transformation of a preexisting liver cell adenoma. These results support the hypothesis that liver carcinogenesis related to metabolic syndrome often follows a specific molecular pathway of tumorigenesis different from the usual multistep process: fibrosis-cirrhosis-HCC," the authors conclude.

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