An Ecological Study of the Association between Air Pollution and Hepatocellular Carcinoma Incidence in Texas

Luca Cicalese, Loren Raun, Ali Shirafkan, Laura Campos, Daria Zorzi, Mauro Montalbano, Colin Rhoads, Valia Gazis, Katherine Ensor, Cristiana Rastellini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Introduction: Primary liver cancer is a significant cause of cancer-related death in both the United States and the world at large. Hepatocellular carcinoma comprises 90% of these primary liver cancers and has numerous known etiologies. Evaluation of these identified etiologies and other traditional risk factors cannot explain the high incidence rates of hepatocellular carcinoma in Texas. Texas is home to the second largest petrochemical industry and agricultural industry in the nation; industrial activity and exposure to pathogenic chemicals have never been assessed as potential links to the state's increased incidence rate of hepatocellular carcinoma. Methods: The association between the county-level concentrations of 4 air pollutants known to be linked to liver cancer, vinyl chloride, arsenic, benzene, and 1,3-butadiene, and hepatocellular carcinoma rates was evaluated using nonparametric generalized additive logistic regression and gamma regression models. Hepatocellular carcinoma incidence rates for 2000-2013 were evaluated in comparison to 1996 and 1999 pollution concentrations and hepatocellular carcinoma rates for the subset of 2006-2013 were evaluated in comparison to 2002 and 2005 pollution concentrations, respectively. Results: The analysis indicates that the relationship between the incidence of liver cancer and air pollution and risk factors is nonlinear. There is a consistent significant positive association between the incidence of liver cancer and hepatitis C prevalence rates (gamma all years, p < 0.05) and vinyl chloride concentrations (logistic 2002 and 2005, p < 0.0001; gamma 2002 and 2005, p < 0.05). Conclusions: This study suggests that vinyl chloride is a significant contributor to the incidence of liver cancer in Texas. The relationship is notably nonlinear. Further, the study supports the association between incidence of liver cancer and prevalence of hepatitis B.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-296
Number of pages10
JournalLiver Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Air pollutants
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Liver cancer
  • Public health
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Oncology


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