School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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Background: Hispanics in South Texas have high rates of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Liver fibrosis severity is the strongest predictive factor of NAFLD progression to HCC. We examined the association between free fatty acids (FA) and advanced liver fibrosis or HCC in this population.

Methods: We quantified 45 FAs in plasma of 116 subjects of the Cameron County Hispanic Cohort, 15 Hispanics with HCC, and 56 first/second-degree relatives of Hispanics with HCC. Liver fibrosis was assessed by FibroScan.

Results: Advanced liver fibrosis was significantly associated with low expression of very long chain (VLC) saturated FAs (SFA), odd chain SFAs, and VLC n-3 polyunsaturated FAs [PUFA; AOR; 95% confidence interval (CI), 10.4 (3.7-29.6); P < 0.001; 5.7 (2.2-15.2); P < 0.001; and 3.7 (1.5-9.3); P = 0.005]. VLC n3-PUFAs significantly improved the performance of the noninvasive markers for advanced fibrosis - APRI, FIB-4, and NFS. Plasma concentrations of VLC SFAs and VLC n-3 PUFAs were further reduced in patients with HCC. Low concentrations of these FAs were also observed in relatives of patients with HCC and in subjects with the PNPLA3 rs738409 homozygous genotype.

Conclusions: Low plasma concentrations of VLC n-3 PUFAs and VLC SFAs were strongly associated with advanced liver fibrosis and HCC in this population. Genetic factors were associated with low concentrations of these FAs as well.

Impact: These results have implications in identifying those at risk for liver fibrosis progression to HCC and in screening this population for advanced fibrosis. They also prompt the evaluation of VLC n-3 PUFA or VLC SFA supplementation to prevent cirrhosis and HCC.


Original published version available at 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-21-0183

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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev



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