What are the risk factors for liver cancer?
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 – this link is strongest in those who have viral hepatitis or drink alcohol
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 Medical Review: 10/07/2013
Last Revised: 10/07/2013