It has been pointed out that hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) develops more frequently in cirrhotic liver with siderosis than in liver without iron deposition, that excess copper in hepatocytes inhibits hepatocarcinogenesis, and that an increase in copper and a decrease in zinc are seen in the sera of patients with various malignant tumors. Iron, copper and zinc concentrations in the serum and liver were estimated in normal subjects and cirrhotic patients with and without HCC. Serum copper level was significantly higher in cirrhotic patients with or without HCC than in normal subjects. No significant differences were observed in the levels of these trace elements in the serum and liver of cirrhotic patients with and without HCC. The current study seems to indicate that iron, copper and zinc do not play an important role in the development of HCC in cirrhotic patients in Japan.