The incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common primary liver cancer, is increasing in the US and tripled during the past two decades. The reasons for such phenomenon remain poorly understood. Texas is among continental states with the highest incidence of liver cancer with an annual increment of 5.7%. Established risk factors for HCC include Hepatitis B and C (HBV, HCV) viral infection, alcohol, tobacco and suspected risk factors include obesity and diabetes. While distribution of these risk factors in the state of Texas is similar to the national data and homogeneous, the incidence of HCC in this state is exceptionally higher than the national average and appears to be dishomogeneous in various areas of the state suggesting that other non-recognized risk factors might play a role. No population-based studies are currently available investigating the effect of exposure to Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) as a contributing risk factor for liver cancer. Incidence rate of liver cancer in Texas by counties for the time period between 2002 and 2012 was obtained from the Texas Cancer Registry (TCR). Through Principal Component Analysis (PCA) a subgroup of pollutants, explaining almost all the dataset variability, were identified and used to cluster Texas counties. The analysis generated 4 clusters showing liver cancer rate either higher or lower than national average in association with either high or low levels of HAPs emission in the environment. The study shows that the selected relevant HAPs, 10 among 253 analyzed, produce a significant correlation (P = 0.01–0.05) and some of these have been previously identified as carcinogens. An association between the increased production and consequent exposure to these HAPs and a higher presence of liver cancer in certain counties is suggested. This study provides a new insight on this complex multifactorial disease suggesting that environmental substances might play a role in the etiology of this cancer.
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