What is the risk factor? It is anything that influences the risks of getting a disease, like cancer. Several cancer types have different risk factors, which sometimes can be stopped and sometimes not. Likely, smoking – a common cancer risk factor, can be prevented. On the other hand, you can not avoid the genetic or hereditary risk factors.
Though, having one or more risk factors don’t mean you are going to get the disease. The risk factors even don’t tell us the whole thing about the disease, and how much you are predisposed to it? There are many patients who are suffering from different types of cancers but had a very few or no known risk factor.
Risk Factors of Liver Cancer
In this article, we are going to discuss the possible risk factors of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or malignant hepatoma, which is just the primary type of liver cancer. Scientists and Medical Researchers are working on to find out the maximum possible risks factors of liver cancer.
Before we start, have a look at the fact sheet to know where India is standing in terms of Liver Cancer and also other cancer types.
Liver Cancer is more common in men than in women. This also happens due to some common practices and behaviours that influence risk factors of liver cancer. Though, the fibrolamellar subtype of hepatoma is more prevalent in women.
2. Chronic Viral Hepatitis -B or Hepatitis -C
Chronic viral liver disease Hepatitis (both Hep-B & Hep-C) is the most common known risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma. Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) often result in cirrhosis of the liver that is responsible to make liver cancer one of the predominant cancer types in different parts of the world.
While in the US, Hep-C is the primary cause of liver cancer, in Asian countries and other developing countries Hep-B is the more significant concern.
People having hepatitis infection (both B and C type) are at high risk of developing chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis of liver and liver cancer. The risk factors are more affected in those who are heavy drinkers.
How Does Hepatitis Spread?
Hepatitis-B and Hepatitis-C can spread from one to another in different ways. While both types of hepatitis can spread through blood, Hep-B can transmit through semen and saliva, which makes it an STD. Mothers with chronic hepatitis-B may transmit the infection to her now born. Babies may be born with the infection, or they may get it shortly after birth.
On the other hand, Hep-C transmits only through blood. It may spread through contaminated needles, open cuts, unsterilised tattooing or piercing tools etc. Sharing a razor, or a toothbrush is also at risk of spreading hepatitis.
Symptoms of Hepatitis-B & Hepatitis-C
Hepa-B Virus (HBV) usually cause some symptoms like flu-like ailments, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), while Hepa-C Virus (HCV) is less likely to make any symptom.
Severity of Hepatitis-B & Hepatitis-C
People infected with HPV are anticipated to recover within 2 to 3 months, and most of the affected adult recover completely, leaving a small percentage of people to become chronic carriers of the infection.
Infants and kids infected with HPV are at higher risk of becoming a chronic carrier of hepatitis-B.
On the other hand, people infected with HCV are prone to develop chronic conditions that are likely to result in severe liver damage as well as liver cancer.
Other hepatitis viruses HAV and HEV, may also cause hepatitis, but these infections do not lead to develop chronic hepatitis or have a higher risk of liver cancer.
3. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver
In this condition, the liver gets fat deposits even with consuming little or zero alcohol. This condition is common in obese people. People with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a type of non-alcoholic fatty liver condition, is known as it might go on to developing liver cirrhosis.
4. Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PCB)
Some of the autoimmune diseases like primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) may affect the liver severely or even may destroy the bile duct in the liver leading to cirrhosis of liver. Advanced stage of chronic (long-term) PBC causes a higher risk of liver cancer.
5. Inherited Metabolic Diseases
Several hereditary metabolic disorders may lead to cirrhosis of the liver. People with inherited hemochromatosis absorb excess iron from their food, and it settles in tissues including the liver. If an adequate amount of iron builds up in the liver, that may lead to developing liver cirrhosis as well as liver cancer.
6. Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes has numerous side effects leading to different health conditions like liver cancer. People with type 2 diabetes and other risk factors like chronic viral hepatitis, excessive alcohol consumption are at higher risk of developing liver cancer. Moreover, type 2 diabetes often leads to developing obesity, which increases the risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Being obese raises the risk of developing liver cirrhosis of cancer. Obesity often results in fatty liver disease as well as worsen the type 2 diabetes condition that increases the risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer.
8. Rare Diseases
There are certain rare diseases that may increase the risk of developing liver cancer. These may include –
- Alpha1-Antitrypsin Deficiency
- Glycogen Storage Diseases
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Wilson Disease etc.
9. Vinyl Chloride
Vinyl Chloride is a chemical often used in making several plastic products. Exposure to this type of carcinogen raises the risk of developing angiosarcoma of the liver. Though in a lesser degree, it also heightens the risk of developing cholangiocarcinoma and hepatocellular cancer. Exposure of workers to vinyl chloride is strictly regulated in the US and in European countries. However, people in the developing and underdeveloped countries are at higher risk.
10. Anabolic Steroids
It is common among athletes who intake anabolic steroids to boost their strength and increase muscle mass. But long-term use of such steroids may increase the risk of hepatocellular cancer.
Drinking arsenic-contaminated water over a long period of time increases the risk to develop liver cancer. Though arsenic contamination is common in East Asian countries, some parts of the United States are also under the same risk.
12. Parasites Infection
Parasite infection that causes schistosomiasis may further cause liver damage and in advanced cases may lead to liver cancer. Though not found in the US, this parasite infection is common in Asian, African, and South American countries.
13. Excessive Tobacco & Alcohol Intake
Everyone knows how smoking and drinking may harm the entire body. In the US, alcohol misuse is a preeminent cause of liver cirrhosis, which increases the risk of developing liver cancer. Similarly, smoking increases the risk of cancerous liver condition.
Other than these 13 top risk factors of liver cancer, there are many more minor risk factors. We can avoid some of these risk factors, we can limit a few, while some of these factors are out of our control. However, identifying the risk factors, taking possible precautions may help us reduce the chance of getting life-threatening liver diseases. So, be careful and consult your nearest oncologist whenever you feel of being at risk.