What are the risk factors for liver cancer?

The most common risk factor for liver cancer is long-term (chronic) infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C viruses. These viruses can lead to scarring of your liver – known as cirrhosis. You can become infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C by coming in physical contact with the bodily fluids or blood of an infected person, such as through unprotected sex or unsterilized needles.

Other risk factors for liver cancer can include:

  • Having cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
  • Having type 2 diabetes
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Being obese
  • Having non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), also known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
  • Having an inherited (genetic) liver disease, such as hemochromatosis
  • Being exposed to arsenic or aflatoxin
  • Taking too much male hormone or anabolic steroids

What can you do to prevent liver cancer?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer. However, there are ways you can lower your risk for disease.

Because the primary risk factor for liver cancer is infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C viruses, avoiding these infections can reduce your risk for developing the disease. You can avoid infection with these viruses by:

  • Practicing safe sex, such as using condoms and limiting sexual partners.
  • Not using illicit drugs or sharing needles.
  • Receiving the hepatitis B vaccine.

Other ways to lower your risk for liver cancer include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about what you should include in a healthy diet.
  • Keeping a healthy weight. Ask your doctor what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Asking your doctor about genetic testing and screening recommendations if you have an inherited disease that increases your risk for liver cancer.
  • Talking to your doctor about liver cancer screening if you have a disease that increases your risk, such as cirrhosis.
  • Not using tobacco. Speak with your doctor if you need help quitting.
  • Limiting exposure to chemicals including arsenic and aflatoxins.

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