1University of Western Australia, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.
Primary liver cancer, the majority of which are hepatocellular carcinomas, is now the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Hepatocellular carcinoma is a unique cancer that typically arises in the setting of chronic liver disease at a rate dependent upon the complex interplay between the host, disease and environmental factors. Infection with chronic hepatitis B or C virus is currently the dominant risk factor worldwide. However, changing lifestyle and environmental factors in western countries plus rising neonatal hepatitis B vaccination rates and decreasing exposure to dietary aflatoxins in developing countries are driving an evolution of the epidemiology of this cancer. An understanding of this change is crucial in combating the rising incidence currently being seen in western regions and will underpin the efforts to reduce the mortality rates associated with this cancer.