The role of vitamin K2, or menaquinone, in controlling cell growth has been identified in previous studies.
Japanese scientists were therefore interested to discover if vitamin K2 has preventative effects on the development of hepatocellular carcinoma in women with viral cirrhosis of the liver.
Dr Daiki Habu and colleagues from Osaka City University, Osaka, Japan studied 40 women diagnosed with viral liver cirrhosis who were admitted to a university hospital between 1996 and 1998.
The women were randomly assigned to either the treatment group, who received 45 mg/d of vitamin K2 (n = 21), or the control group, who did not receive the vitamin treatment.
Both groups received symptomatic therapy to treat ascites, if necessary, and dietary advice.
The scientists originally set out to assess the long-term effects of vitamin K2 on bone loss in women with viral liver cirrhosis.
However, since study participants also satisfied criteria required for examination of the effects of such treatment on the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, they focused their attention on this.
Hepatocellular carcinoma was detected in 2 of the 21 women given vitamin K2 and 9 of the 19 women in the control group.
The cumulative proportion of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma was smaller in the treatment group, while on univariate analysis, the risk ratio for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma in the treatment group compared with the control group was 0.20.
On multivariate analysis with adjustment for age, alanine aminotransferase activity, serum albumin, total bilirubin, platelet count, -fetoprotein, and history of treatment with interferon alfa, the risk ratio for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients given vitamin K2 was 0.13.
The researchers therefore conclude that there is a possible role for vitamin K2 in the prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma in women with viral cirrhosis.