- 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California.
- 2Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California.
- 3Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Background: Patients from rural and low-income households may have suboptimal access to liver disease care, which may translate into worse HCC outcomes. The authors provide a comprehensive update of HCC incidence and outcomes among US adults, focusing on the effect of rural geography and household income on tumor stage and mortality.
Methods: The authors retrospectively evaluated adults with HCC using Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data from 2004 to 2017. HCC incidence was reported per 100,000 persons and was compared using z-statistics. Tumor stage at diagnosis used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results staging system and was evaluated with multivariate logistic regression. HCC mortality was evaluated using Kaplan-Meier and multivariate Cox proportional hazards methods.
Results: HCC incidence plateaued for most groups, with the exception of American Indians/Alaska Natives (2004-2017: APC, 4.17%; P < .05) and patients in the lowest household income category (<$40,000; 2006-2017: APC, 2.80%; P < .05). Compared with patients who had HCC in large metropolitan areas with a population >1 million, patients in more rural regions had higher odds of advanced-stage HCC at diagnosis (odds ratio, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.00-1.20; P = .04) and higher mortality (hazard ratio, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.01-1.08; P = .02). Compared with the highest income group (≥$70,000), patients with HCC who earned <$40,000 annually had higher odds of advanced-stage HCC (odds ratio, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.01-1.32; P = .03) and higher mortality (hazard ratio, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.16-1.31; P < .001).
Conclusions: Patients from rural regions and lower-income households had more advanced tumor stage at diagnosis and significantly higher HCC mortality. These disparities likely reflect suboptimal access to consistent high-quality liver disease care, including HCC surveillance.