A risk factor is anything that affects a person's chance of getting a disease. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors like smoking can be controlled. Others, like a person's age or family history, can't be changed. But risk factors don't tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that a person will get cancer. And some people who get the disease have few or no known risk factors.
The most common risk factors for liver cancer are:
- Gender: this cancer is more common in men than women
- Where you live: this cancer is much more common in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia than in the United States.
- Ethnicity: In the United States, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest rates of liver cancer
- Long-term infections with hepatitis B and/or C
- Heavy alcohol use
- Being obese (very overweight)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain inherited conditions, such as hereditary hemochromatosis
- Arsenic exposure, which can come from drinking water
- Exposure to the solvent vinyl chloride
- Using anabolic steroids
- Tobacco use
For people who live outside the United States, exposure to aflatoxins, which can contaminate nuts and grains, is also a risk factor. So is infection with the parasitic worm that causes schistosomiasis, a disease that can affect the liver.
Last Revised: 02/23/2016