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The impact of increased immigration to Sweden on the incidence and treatment of patients with HCC and underlying liver disease

Journal article
Authors Helena Taflin
Lars-Olof Hafström
Erik Holmberg
Maria Castedal
Per Lindnér
Published in Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 54
Issue 6
Pages 746-752
ISSN 0036-5521
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Surgery
Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Oncology
Institute of Clinical Sciences
Pages 746-752
Language en
Keywords Hepatocellular carcinoma, immigration, incidence, transplantation, hepatocellular-carcinoma, defined population, alcohol, cirrhosis, cancer, virus, guidelines, management, Gastroenterology & Hepatology
Subject categories Gastroenterology and Hepatology


Background: Sweden has traditionally been considered a country with a low incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the increasing number of immigrants from areas with a high incidence of HCC might affect the number of HCC patients in Sweden. Aim: To examine trends in the incidence, treatment and overall survival of patients with HCC and an underlying liver disease (ULD) from a restricted, well-defined region of Sweden, between 2000 and 2014. Patients and methods: Nine hundred and eight patients with HCC were identified. Subjects were grouped into 5-year periods, and analysed for HCC diagnosis, ULD, staging and treatment selection in populations born outside Sweden versus non-immigrants and patient survival. The regions were Africa, Asia, EU-28 together with America and the Nordic countries, eastern Europe and Sweden. Results: Over the time periods, the patients with HCC and ULD increased. More patients from Africa had HCC and ULD than what would have been expected based on the number of immigrants from this region and they were also significantly younger than Sweden-born patients. For patients from Africa, Asia and eastern Europe; viral hepatitis was dominating ULDs. Patients from Africa, Asia and eastern Europe were subjected to liver transplantation (LT) in higher proportions than patients from Sweden. The survival rate for patients from eastern Europe was significantly better. Conclusions: Immigration increased the incidence of HCC and the need for active treatment such as LT. This fact raises the question of whether immigrants from regions with a high incidence of HCC ought to be subjected to mandatory hepatitis B and C virus (HBV and HCV) diagnosis and consequent liver ultrasounds for diagnosis of occult HCC. With such strategies, the morbidity and mortality of HCC could be reduced.

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