Liver Cancer Risk Factors

The risk factors of liver cancer include certain viral infection, cirrhosis, alcohol abuse, obesity, aflatoxins etc.

The risk factors of liver cancer are the known things that affect your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer, but having one or several risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll get the disease. Also there’re people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors. Scientists have found several risk factors that elevates the likeliness of a person to develop hepatocellular carcinoma(HCC, meaning a cancer that starts in the liver).

Race & Gender

In the United States, the rates of liver cancer varies in ethnics. Asian American and Pacific Islanders have the highest rates, followed by American Indians/Alaska Natives, and then Hispanics/Latinos, African Americans, and whites.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is much more common in males than in females.

The fibrolamellar subtype of HCC is more common in women.

Chronic Viral hepatitis

Worldwide, the most common risk factor for liver cancer is chronic (long-term) infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV). These infections lead to cirrhosis of the liver (see above) and are responsible for making liver cancer the most common cancer in many parts of the world.

In the United States, infection with hepatitis C is the more common cause of HCC, while in Asia and developing countries, hepatitis B is more common.


Cirrhosis is a disease in which liver cells become damaged and are replaced by scar tissue. People with cirrhosis have an increased risk of liver cancer. Most (but not all) people who develop liver cancer already have some evidence of cirrhosis. There are several possible causes of cirrhosis. Most cases in the United States occur in people who abuse alcohol or have chronic HBV or HCV infections.

  1. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease It’s a condition in which people who consume little or no alcohol develop a fatty liver. It is common in obese people. People with a type of this disease known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) might go on to develop cirrhosis.
  2. Primary biliary cirrhosis Some types of autoimmune diseases that affect the liver can also cause cirrhosis. For example, there is also a disease called primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). In PBC, the bile ducts in the liver are damaged and even destroyed which can lead to cirrhosis. People with advanced PBC have a high risk of liver cancer.
  3. Inherited metabolic diseases Certain inherited metabolic diseases can lead to cirrhosis. People with hereditary hemochromatosis absorb too much iron from their food. The iron settles in tissues throughout the body, including the liver. If enough iron builds up in the liver, it can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Heavy alcohol use

Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of cirrhosis in the United States, which in turn is linked with an increased risk of liver cancer.


Being obese (very overweight) increases the risk of developing liver cancer. This is related to fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes has been linked with an increased risk of liver cancer, usually in patients who also have other risk factors such as heavy alcohol use and/or chronic viral hepatitis. This risk may be increased because people with type 2 diabetes tend to be overweight or obese, which in turn can cause liver problems.


These cancer-causing substances are made by a fungus that contaminates peanuts, wheat, soybeans, ground nuts, corn, and rice. Storage in a moist, warm environment can lead to the growth of this fungus. Although this can occur almost anywhere in the world, it is more common in warmer and tropical countries. Developed countries such as the United States and those in Europe regulate the content of aflatoxins in foods through testing. Long-term exposure to these substances is a major risk factor for liver cancer. The risk is increased even more in people with hepatitis B or C infections.

Vinyl chloride and thorium dioxide (Thorotrast)

Vinyl chloride is a chemical used in making some kinds of plastics. Thorotrast is a chemical that in the past was injected into some patients as part of certain x-ray tests. When the cancer-causing properties of these chemicals were recognized, steps were taken to eliminate them or minimize exposure to them. Thorotrast is no longer used, and exposure of workers to vinyl chloride is strictly regulated.

Anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroids are male hormones used by some athletes to increase their strength and muscle mass. Long-term anabolic steroid use can slightly increase the risk of hepatocellular cancer. Cortisone-like steroids, such as hydrocortisone, prednisone, and dexamethasone, do not carry this same risk.


Drinking water contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic, such as that from some wells, over a long period of time increases the risk of some types of liver cancer. This is more common in parts of East Asia, but it might also be a concern in some areas of the United States.

Infection with parasites

Infection with the parasite that causes schistosomiasis can cause liver damage and is linked to liver cancer. This parasite is not found in the US, but infection can occur in Asia, Africa, and South America.

Tobacco use

Smoking increases the risk of liver cancer. Former smokers have a lower risk than current smokers, but both groups have a higher risk than those who never smoked.

Leave a Reply