Hepatocellular Carcinoma at 40x Magnification
Hepatocytes are the specialized epithelial cells that chiefly comprise the liver and perform an array of metabolic, endocrine, and secretory functions. Hepatocellular carcinoma is a form of cancer that originates in hepatocytes. In the United States, hepatocellular carcinoma is relatively rare, but globally it is one of the leading causes of cancer-related death. The disease is especially common in some areas of Africa and Asia, a fact that is widely attributed to the prevalence of the hepatitis B virus in those regions. Studies indicate that individuals with hepatitis B or hepatitis C are at increased risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. Although the specific link between the viruses and liver cancer is not yet fully understood, some scientists have suggested that viral infection interferes with signal transduction and, consequently, disrupts the normal, controlled growth of cells.