Although treatment for hepatitis C virus has been dramatically improved by the development of direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs), whether interferon (IFN)-free therapy reduces hepatocarcinogenesis in an equivalent manner to IFN-based therapy remains controversial. The aims of this study were to evaluate the occurrence and recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in chronic hepatitis C (CHC) patients treated with DAAs and to identify biomarkers of HCC development after antiviral treatment. A restrospective review of a prospective database of 1,897 CHC patients who were treated with IFN-based (1,145) or IFN-free therapies (752) was carried out. Cumulative HCC occurrence and recurrence rates were compared using propensity score-matched analysis. Predictors of HCC development after viral eradication were identified by multivariate analysis. Propensity score-matched analysis showed no significant difference in HCC occurrence (p=0.49) and recurrence rates (p=0.54) between groups treated with IFN-based or IFN-free therapies. In multivariate analysis, higher levels of post-treatment α-fetoprotein (AFP) or Wisteria floribunda agglutinin positive Mac-2 binding protein (WFA+M2BP) were independently associated with HCC occurrence and recurrence after viral eradication. Only post-treatment WFA+M2BP level was significantly associated with HCC occurrence and recurrence among patients without severe fibrosis. The area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve for WFA+M2BP levels was greater than that for AFP levels in ROC analysis. The risks of early HCC occurrence and recurrence after viral eradication were similar between IFN-based and IFN-free therapies. Post-treatment levels of WFA+M2BP may be helpful screening biomarkers for assessing the risk of HCC after IFN-free therapy. Patients with high WFA+M2BP levels after antiviral treatment, even without severe fibrosis, must be followed up carefully for HCC development. Lay summary: The risks of early HCC occurrence and recurrence after viral eradication were similar between IFN-based and IFN-free therapies. Post-treatment levels of WFA+M2BP may be helpful screening biomarkers for assessing the risk of HCC after IFN-free therapy. Copyright © 2017 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.