Liver Cancer Overview

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

Can liver cancer be prevented?

Many liver cancers could be prevented by avoiding exposures to known risk factors for this disease.

Avoiding and treating hepatitis infections

Worldwide, the biggest risk factor for liver cancer is infection with the hepatitis B or C virus. There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B. All children, as well as adults at high risk, should get this vaccine.

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Preventing hepatitis C (and hepatitis B in people who have not had the vaccine) is based on knowing how it spreads. The viruses are spread through blood transfusions, from sharing dirty needles (as in drug use), by having unprotected sex, and through childbirth. In the United States the risk of getting a hepatitis infection from a blood transfusion is very low.

Hepatitis C infections can often be cured with drug treatment. Drugs can also be used to help treat hepatitis B, but they do not cure it. If you have hepatitis B or C you should talk to your doctor about treating it.

Limiting alcohol and tobacco use

In the United States, alcohol abuse is a major cause of cirrhosis, which can lead to liver cancer. Not drinking alcohol or drinking only in moderation could help prevent liver cancer.

Since smoking also increases the risk of liver cancer, not smoking will also prevent some of these cancers. If you smoke, quitting will help lower your risk of this cancer, as well as many other cancers and life-threatening diseases.

Getting to and staying at a healthy weight

Avoiding obesity might be another way to help protect against liver cancer. People who are obese are more likely to have fatty liver disease and diabetes, both of which have been linked to liver cancer.


Last Medical Review: 11/19/2014
Last Revised: 12/09/2014