Michael C. Kew
Published incidences of hepatocellular carcinoma in the Black population of sub-Saharan Africa underestimate the true incidence of the tumor because of the many instances in which hepatocellular carcinoma is either not definitively diagnosed or is not recorded in a cancer registry. Despite this, it is manifestly evident that the tumor occurs commonly and is a major cause of cancer deaths in Black African peoples living in the sub-continent, particularly in those living in rural areas. 46,000 new cases of hepatocellular carcinoma have been recorded to be diagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa each year, and age-standardized incidences of the tumor as high as 41.2/100,000 persons/year have been documented. The highest incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma has been recorded in Mozambique. The tumor occurs at a young age in rural dwelling and, to a lesser extent, urban dwelling Black Africans. It is also more common in men than women, particularly in the younger patients. Cirrhosis co-exists with hepatocellular carcinoma in about 60% of patients and is equally common in the two sexes. The tumor is not only common in the Black African population, it also carries an especially grave prognosis, with about 93% of the patients dying within 12 months of the onset of symptoms. Caucasians living in the sub-continent have a low incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma and it occurs at an older age.
Key words. Epidemiology, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Sub-Saharan Africa