Serum alpha-fetoprotein may have a significant role in the surveillance of hepatocellular carcinoma in hepatitis B endemic areas.

PMID 25916058


The role of serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) determination in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) surveillance is controversial. We reviewed a total of 132 patients (mean age 57.8 ± 9.6, males = 101 (76%); HBsAg positive = 109 (82.6%); cirrhosis = 94 (71.2%)) who were diagnosed with HCC during regular surveillance test with ultrasound (US) and AFP. The primary mode of tumor detection was US only in 51.5%, US and AFP in 22.0%, AFP only in 19.7%, and incidental in 6.8% of patients. US detected 68.5% of tumor diagnosed at early stage, which was significantly lower than tumor beyond-early stage (85.0%, p = 0.048). AFP doubling (an increase in AFP level more than double from a prior surveillance) was more frequently observed in HBV-related HCC (47.7%) than HCV-related HCC (11.8%, p = 0.009). The AFP increased sensitivity by 19.7% for all patients; 28.0% for HBV-related early stage HCC patients. This result suggest that serum AFP measurements may have a significant role in increasing sensitivity in HCC surveillance, especially for detecting early stage HBV-related HCC.