What is liver cancer? Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention
“About 90% of hepatocellular carcinomas [primary liver cancers] occur in patients with liver disease,” says Mario Strazzabosco, MD, Ph.D., the director and clinical program leader of the Smilow Liver Cancer Program at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. “Most of the time the patient has advanced liver disease – cirrhosis.”
Liver Cancer Risk Factors
Researchers have identified several risk factors that increase a person’s chances of developing liver cancer.
“Often a patient has more than one risk factor, and the risk increases exponentially with the number of risk factors,” says Dr. Strazzabosco.
- Cirrhosis of the liver, chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C
- Overweight or obesity
- Certain inherited diseases, such as Wilson’s disease (a rare disorder that causes copper poisoning) or hemochromatosis (a buildup of excess iron in the liver)
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Foods containing aflatoxin (a fungus that can grow on grains and nuts that have not been properly stored)
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (a buildup of fat in the liver)
- Age over 60
“An important concept is that by addressing these risk factors, it would be possible to significantly reduce the incidence of [liver cancer]», explains Strazzabosco. “There are also well-defined protocols for oncology treatments. [cancer-preventing] monitoring in patients with identified risk factors. Unfortunately, these recommendations are not always followed.