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Second Cancers After Liver Cancer

Liver cancer survivors can be affected by a number of health problems, but often a major concern is facing cancer again. Cancer that comes back after treatment is called a recurrence. But some cancer survivors develop a new, unrelated cancer later. This is called a second cancer.

Unfortunately, being treated for liver cancer doesn’t mean you can’t get another cancer. People who have had liver cancer can still get the same types of cancers that other people get. In fact, they might be at higher risk for certain types of cancer.

Studies looking at the second cancers liver cancer survivors can get are not easy to do, mainly because of the poor outcomes related to liver cancer. The little information that is known shows that there is an increased risk of:

For people diagnosed with liver cancer before age 50, there appears to be an increased risk of these second cancers:

Exactly how high the risk is of developing these second cancers is not known at this time.

Follow-up after liver cancer treatment

After completing treatment, you should still see your doctor regularly. Report any new symptoms or problems, because they could be caused by the cancer spreading or coming back, or by a new disease or second cancer.

Liver cancer survivors should also follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer, such as those for colorectal, breast, cervical, and prostate cancer. Screening tests can find some cancers early, when they are likely to be treated more successfully. For people who have had liver cancer, most experts don’t recommend any additional testing to look for second cancers unless you have symptoms or if you or your family have an inherited disease

Can I lower my risk of getting a second cancer?

There are steps you can take to lower your risk and stay as healthy as possible. For example, people who have had liver cancer should stay away from tobacco products. Not smoking lowers the chance of developing most lung cancers, and may help decrease the possibility of a new liver cancer forming.

To help maintain good health, liver cancer survivors should also:

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight
  • Keep physically active and limit the time you spend sitting or lying down
  • Follow a healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limits or avoids red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods
  • Not drink alcohol. If you do drink, have no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men

These steps may also lower the risk of some other health problems.

See Second Cancers in Adults for more information about causes of second cancers.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Curtis RE, Freedman DM, Ron E, Ries LAG, Hacker DG, Edwards BK, Tucker MA, Fraumeni JF Jr. (eds). New Malignancies Among Cancer Survivors: SEER Cancer Registries, 1973-2000. National Cancer Institute. NIH Publ. No. 05-5302. Bethesda, MD, 2006.

Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting was originally published by the National Cancer Institute. NCI website. Reviewed December 19, 2017. Accessed March 13, 2019.

Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2020;70(4). doi:10.3322/caac.21591. Accessed at on June 9, 2020.


Last Revised: June 9, 2020

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