Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the sixth most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. Incidence rates of liver cancer vary widely between geographic regions and are highest in Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In the United States, the incidence of HCC has increased since the 1980s. HCC detection at an early stage through surveillance and curative therapy has considerably improved the 5-year survival. Therefore, medical societies advocate systematic screening and surveillance of target populations at particularly high risk for developing HCC to facilitate early-stage detection. Risk factors for HCC include cirrhosis, chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), excess alcohol consumption, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, family history of HCC, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and smoking. Medical societies utilize risk estimates to define target patient populations in which imaging surveillance is recommended (risk above threshold) or in which the benefits of surveillance are uncertain (risk unknown or below threshold). All medical societies currently recommend screening and surveillance in patients with cirrhosis and subsets of patients with chronic HBV; some societies also include patients with stage 3 fibrosis due to HCV as well as additional groups. Thus, target population definitions vary between regions, reflecting cultural, demographic, economic, healthcare priority, and biological differences. The Liver Imaging Reporting and Data System (LI-RADS) defines different patient populations for surveillance and for diagnosis and staging. We also discuss general trends pertaining to geographic region, age, gender, ethnicity, impact of surveillance on survival, mortality, and future trends.