Compared to white, Asian or Latino individuals, Black people have worse survival rates for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer. Moreover, they are less likely to have their cancer detected early. These findings were reported in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Hepatitis B or C, heavy alcohol use, fatty liver disease and other causes of liver injury can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. HCC is the most rapidly rising cause of mortality from cancer in the United States, but the death rate is not the same across different racial and ethnic groups.

Nicole Rich, MD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues aimed to characterize racial and ethnic disparities in overall survival and early cancer detection among individuals with hepatocellular carcinoma.

The researchers looked through the MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane databases from the beginning of these records through August 2020 for studies concerning early detection and overall survival in people with HCC, stratified by race and ethnicity. They narrowed their analysis to 35 studies that together included 563,097 people with HCC. Of this group, 53% were white, 17% were Black, 18% were Latino and 5% were Asian.

In comparison to white individuals, Black people had significantly poorer liver cancer survival. On the other hand, Asian and Latino individuals had better overall survival than white people.

Across 20 studies that reported tumor stage for participants with HCC, Black individuals were less likely to have their cancer detected at an early, more treatable stage as compared with white people. In contrast, Asian and Latino individuals were as likely as white people to have their tumors detected early.

The researchers cautioned that their findings may be limited due to confounding factors such as socioeconomic status and liver dysfunction.

“There are significant racial and ethnic disparities in HCC prognosis in the United States, with Black patients having worse overall survival and Hispanic and Asian patients having better overall survival compared to white patients,” wrote the researchers. “Interventions are needed to reduce disparities in early HCC detection to improve HCC prognosis.”

Click here to read the study abstract in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Click here to learn more about liver cancer.