Chronic liver diseases are a major public health issue in the United States, and there are substantial racial disparities in liver cirrhosis-related mortality. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most significant contributing factor in the development of chronic liver disease, complications such as hepatocellular carcinoma, and the need for liver transplantation. In the United States, African Americans have twice the prevalence of HCV seropositivity and develop hepatocellular carcinoma at more than twice the rate as whites. African Americans are, however, less likely to respond to interferon therapy for HCV than are whites and have considerably lower likelihood of receiving liver transplantation, the only definitive therapy for end-stage liver disease. Even among those who undergo transplantation, African Americans have lower 2-year and 5-year graft and patient survival compared to whites. We will review these racial disparities in chronic liver diseases and discuss potential biological, socioeconomic, and cultural contributions. An understanding of their underlying mechanisms is an essential step in implementing measures to mollify racially based inequities in the burden and management of liver disease in an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse population.
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