Excessive alcohol consumption and other risks
Newswise — New Brunswick, NJ, October 1, 2022 — The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. It removes toxins from the blood and regulates chemical levels. It excretes a product called bile which helps you digest fat. It makes clotting factors and stores sugar that the body uses for energy. Many may associate poor liver health with increased alcohol consumption, but does that mean that alcohol consumption causes liver cancer? Mariam F. Eskander, MD, MPHsurgical oncologist at the Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Jersey, State first cancer center only National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Centertogether with RWJ Barnabas Healthand assistant professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School whose clinical expertise includes liver tumors, shares more information on this topic.
Q: What is the relationship between excessive alcohol consumption and liver cancer?
Excessive alcohol consumption is toxic to the liver. Alcohol abuse can cause irreversible liver damage called cirrhosis, and cirrhosis is the greatest risk factor for developing hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer. Other risk factors are chronic hepatitis B or C and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can also lead to cirrhosis. Smoking is another risk factor.
Q: What are some ways to reduce the risk of liver cancer?
Take care of your liver! This means avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking.
Q: Are there early signs or symptoms of liver cancer?
Unfortunately, there are no early signs of liver cancer. However, patients may experience abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea or vomiting, and yellowing of the skin or eyes.
Q: Is liver cancer hereditary?
Generally, no. Some genetic diseases increase the risk of developing liver cancer, but they are not common. These include hereditary hemochromatosis and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
Q: Should people with liver cancer abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages?
Yes, people with liver cancer should avoid drinking alcohol. It can worsen liver function and limit treatment options. It can also increase the risk of developing another type of cancer.
Q: What should I do if I think I am at risk for liver cancer?
Talk to your doctor about your specific risk factors and what steps you can take to reduce your risk. People with cirrhosis should also see a liver specialist to improve their liver health and get regular ultrasound screenings for liver cancer.
At Rutgers Cancer Institute, the Liver Cancer and Bile Duct Cancer Program is the only multidisciplinary healthcare group in the state focused on liver and bile duct tumors. Learn more about our Liver Cancer and Bile Duct Cancer Program.