OBJECTIVES: In this study, we aimed to evaluate the persistence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA and the role of HBV core promoter and precore region mutations in 28 young cancer survivor patients with HBV or HBV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, and persistently normal ALT levels, after spontaneous or interferon (IFN)-induced anti-hepatitis B e (HBe) seroconversion. METHODS: Sera from 15 patients with HBV and 13 with dual HBV-HCV infection were analyzed for the presence of HBV-DNA and HCV-RNA by polymerase chain reaction 3 yr after anti-HBe seroconversion. A total of 21 patients had seroconverted spontaneously and seven did so after IFN treatment. The core promoter and the precore regions were amplified sequenced directly. RESULTS: Among patients with HBV infection, HBV-DNA was detected in five of nine (55%) with spontaneous anti-HBe and in all six treated patients (p = 0.092). In the coinfected patients, four had cleared both HBV-DNA and HCV-RNA, five were HBV-DNA negative/HCV-RNA positive and four had the reverse viral pattern. Among the 15 patients with persistence of HBV-DNA, a 7-base pair nucleotide deletion in the core promoter (1757-1763) was present in seven of 10 patients with spontaneous and in one of five patients with IFN-induced seroconversion (p = 0.033). The G1896A precore stop codon mutation was never observed. HBV-DNA levels were significantly lower in patients with the core promoter deletion (p = 0.011). The 7-base pair deletion generated a truncated X protein at amino-acid position 132. CONCLUSIONS: A core promoter deletion after anti-HBe seroconversion was associated with low HBV-DNA levels, probably because of downregulation of pregenomic RNA production and truncation of the X protein. HBV-DNA persistence was a frequent event, even in the absence of active liver disease.