Previous studies focused on whether or not specific mutations in the viral DNA increased the risk of developing the cancer in patients with HBV infection, but the results of many studies were contradictory.

The meta-analysis study led by Guangwen Cao, M.D., Ph.D., of the Second Military Medical University in Shanghai, included 43 studies with a total of 11,582 HBV-infected participants, including 2,801 hepatocellular carcinoma HCC patients. The study found that certain mutations were related with development of HCC and more prevalent as chronic HBV infection progressed from the asymptomatic state to liver cirrhosis or HCC.

Frequent examination of patients with chronic HBV infections for the presence of these mutations may be useful for identifying which patients require preventive antiviral treatment and for the prediction of HCC, the authors write.