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How Do You Get Liver Cancer?

The exact reason how you might get liver cancer is unknown.

The exact reason how you might get liver cancer is unknown.

Chronic liver disease is often associated with primary liver cancer (cancer that starts in the liver). Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) increases the risk of liver cancer. Cirrhosis can be caused by

  • Heavy drinking.
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
  • Hepatitis C.
  • Hepatitis B.
  • Hemochromatosis (a genetic condition where the body stores too much iron from the food).
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC; a rare and poorly understood liver condition).

Thus, if you have chronic liver disease with cirrhosis, your risk of liver cancer is doubled.

However, it is not necessary that cirrhosis will eventually lead to liver cancer, and people without cirrhosis may also develop liver cancer.

Other factors that may increase the risk of liver cancer include:

  • Obesity
  • Male gender
  • Age >55 years
  • High-risk ethnic background such as Asian or Hispanic
  • Long-term anabolic steroid use
  • History of diabetes
  • Inherited metabolic disease
  • High cholesterol and high triglycerides levels
  • Exposure to aflatoxins
  • Smoking

People with certain hereditary and/or rare diseases may be prone to developing liver disease, which include:

  • Wilson Disease
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Glycogen storage disease
  • Advanced PBC
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Tyrosinemia

What is liver cancer?

Liver cancer, also known as hepatic cancer, is a type of cancer that starts in the liver. Different types of liver cancer are as follows:

  • Primary liver cancer: This cancer starts in the liver. Primary liver cancer is of different types:
    • Hepatocellular carcinoma (the common form of liver cancer)
    • Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
    • Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma (cancer that begins in the cell lining of the blood vessels in the liver)
    • Hepatoblastoma (cancer occurring in infants)
  • Metastatic liver cancer (secondary liver cancer): It is a cancer originating in other parts of the body that has spread to the liver.
  • Benign liver tumors: Noncancerous tumors may grow large enough to cause problems, but they do not spread into the nearby tissues.


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What are the treatment options for liver cancer?

Treatment options depend on the stage and type of liver cancer. The most common treatment options include:

  • Surgery: This option may be useful in removing part of the liver affected by cancer. Complications of surgery include bleeding, infection, or pneumonia.
  • Liver transplant: This involves replacing the cancerous cells with the healthy liver cells from a donor. Rejection of the liver transplant is the major complication of this method.
  • Ablation therapy: This procedure involves using heat or laser to destroy the cancerous cells.
  • Embolization: In this technique, a doctor uses a catheter to inject particles or beads into your blood vessels supplying the cancer cells to block them. This kills the cancerous cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation of high frequency destroys the cancerous cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses medications to kill cancerous cells.

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How can you reduce your risk of liver cancer?

You can reduce the risk of liver cancer by following these methods:

  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get vaccinations to prevent hepatitis B
  • Don’t engage in unprotected sex
  • Consult a safe shop for tattoo piercing
  • Ensure sterilized needles are used for blood transfusion


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Medically Reviewed on 4/15/2021


Liver Cancer

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