Background and aims. Liver cancer is one of the most common cause of deaths from cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was reported at a frequency of 7% of patients with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) - related cirrhosis in 1988. We aimed to provide a systematic literature review on the frequency of HCC in patients with AIH, after the discovery of hepatitis C virus (HCV), in order to avoid any possible confounding etiology.

Methods. A literature search of the PubMed database between 1989-2016 was performed, using the relevant keywords “hepatocellular carcinoma” and “autoimmune hepatitis”. We followed the PRISMA statement guidelines during the preparation of this review.

Results. Eleven studies (n=8,460 patients with AIH) were retained for the final analysis. HCC was diagnosed in 0-12.3% of the AIH patients included in these studies. The overall occurrence of HCC in patients with AIH was estimated in two studies, at 5.1% and 6.2%, respectively. In patients with AIH and cirrhosis, the percentage of HCC varied between 0.2%-12.3%. The proportion of HCC in patients with AIH without cirrhosis was estimated at 1.03%. The percentage of cirrhosis in AIH patients varied from 18.7% to 83.3% in Japan, and from 12% to 50.2% in the other areas. The mean follow-up of the patients with AIH was of 10 years.

Conclusions. The development of HCC in patients with AIH appeared to be similar before and after the discovery of HCV, and it was mainly associated to cirrhosis. The number of patients developing cirrhosis in relation with AIH was impressive. The long evolution of AIH to cirrhosis and, eventually, to HCC, has been be suggested.


hepatocellular carcinoma, autoimmune hepatitis, systematic review