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Am I At Risk for Liver Cancer?

A glass holding liquor and ice
Drinking a lot of alcohol increases your risk of liver cancer.

There is no way to know for sure if you’re going to get liver cancer. Certain factors can make one person more likely to get liver cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. However, just because a person has one or more risk factors does not mean that person will get liver cancer. In fact, a person can have all the risk factors and still not get the disease. On the other hand, a person can have no risk factors and still get liver cancer.

Still, talk to your doctor about how to lower your risk if you agree with any of the bolded statements.

I have a chronic liver infection

People who have been infected with the virus that causes hepatitis B or hepatitis C have an increased chance of getting liver cancer. This is especially true in people who have a chronic, active infection. These viruses can cause an inflammation in the liver that leads to scarring, also called cirrhosis. People with cirrhosis of the liver are at higher risk for liver cancer, no matter what the cause of the cirrhosis.

I drink a lot of alcohol

Alcohol damages the liver and may cause cirrhosis, which is a known risk factor for liver cancer and cirrhosis.

I have diabetes

People with diabetes who also have other risk factors, such as consuming large amounts of alcohol and/or chronic hepatitis, have a greater risk for liver cancer.

I am obese

Obesity can result in fatty liver disease and cirrhosis, which can increase the risk for liver cancer. 

I have had chemical exposure

People who are exposed to these chemicals have a greater risk of getting liver cancer:

  • Aflatoxin. This chemical is made by a fungus usually found in warm tropical areas. The fungus, Aspergillus flavus, taints peanuts, corn, rice, soybeans, and wheat grains in those areas of the world. Countries such as the United States and nations in Europe closely monitor the amount of aflatoxin in the food supply. Ongoing exposure to this fungus increases the risk of liver cancer, particularly among people who also have hepatitis B or C. 

  • Anabolic steroids. Though steroid use is dangerous and illegal, some athletes take male hormones in an attempt to gain strength and speed. Some people take them for medical reasons under the supervision of a doctor. Long-term use of anabolic steroids has been shown to increase the risk of liver cancer to some degree.

  • Arsenic. Drinking water that comes from wells and certain natural sources is sometimes contaminated with arsenic. Exposure to arsenic over a long period of time can increase your chance of getting liver cancer.

  • Thorotrast. Thorotrast, an agent that gives off high levels of radiation, was once used as a dye in X-ray studies in the 1930s and has been linked to bile duct and liver cancer. Fortunately, this agent is no longer used.

  • Vinyl chloride. This is a chemical used in the manufacturing of certain types of plastics. Because it carries a risk of liver cancer, there is strict regulation of workers' exposure to vinyl chloride.

I have another disease

Several other diseases have been linked to a higher risk of getting liver cancer. These diseases include:

  • Tyrosinemia

  • Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency

  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

  • Wilson disease

  • Glycogen storage diseases


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