Document Type


Publication Date



hepatocellular carcinoma, cholangiocarcinoma, focal nodular hyperplasia, hepatic adenoma, dysplastic nodule, biliary intraepithelial neoplasia, intraductal papillary neoplasm


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cholangiocarcinoma (CC) are the 2 most common primary malignant liver tumors, with hepatocellular and bile ductular differentiation, respectively. This article reviews the key histopathological findings of these 2 primary liver cancers and includes a review of the role of ancillary testing for differential diagnosis, risk stratification according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging recommendation, and a review of precancerous lesions. A literature review was conducted to identify articles with information relevant to precancerous precursors, current histopathological classification, ancillary testing, and risk stratification of primary malignant liver tumors. The histomorphology of normal liver, preinvasive precursors, primary malignancies, and morphological variants, and the utilization of ancillary tests for the pathological diagnosis are described. Dysplastic nodules are the preinvasive precursors of HCC, and intraductal papillary neoplasms of bile ducts and biliary intraepithelial neoplasia are the preinvasive precursors of CC. Benign liver nodules including focal nodular hyperplasia and adenomas are included in this review, since some forms of adenomas progress to HCC and often they have to be differentiated from well-differentiated HCC. A number of morphological variants of HCC have been described in the literature, and it is necessary to be aware of them in order to render the correct diagnosis. Risk stratification is still dependent on the AJCC staging system. The diagnosis of primary liver carcinomas is usually straightforward. Application of the appropriate ancillary studies aids in the differential diagnosis of difficult cases. The understanding of the carcinogenesis of these malignancies has improved with the standardization of the pathological classification of preinvasive precursors and studies of the molecular pathogenesis. Risk stratification still depends on pathological staging.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Rights Information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Cancer Control, v. 25, issue 1, p. 1-26

Was this content written or created while at USF?