Causes of Liver Cancer

Causes of Liver Cancer
Learn all about the diseases that cause liver cancer and avoid exposing yourself to these risks.

Liver cancer is a disease that affects more than 800,000 worldwide each year and is one of the most dangerous types of cancer there is. Therefore, it is important to recognize the risk factors and causes that can result in liver cancer in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones. 

One of the first things to keep in mind when it comes to the diseases that cause liver cancer is that this type of cancer can originate in two ways: by metastasis and within the organ itself. 

Metastatic liver cancer is caused due to the presence of metastases from a cancer that was born in another part of the body and spread until it reached the liver. On the other hand, the so-called primary cancer is the one that develops and grows inside the liver organ. 

Cancer can also develop in the bile ducts and liver cell adenomas that lead to cancer, but these cases are much less common. In this article we will focus on the diseases that cause primary liver cancer.

Diseases that cause liver cancer and other risk factors

The development of primary cancer in liver cells, like other types of cancerous tumors, does not have a specific cause, therefore, rather than talking about causes, we talk about risk factors and diseases or conditions to avoid.

These factors affect the liver cells, leading to an abnormal increase of cancer cells in the liver. Among the major risk factors and diseases that cause liver cancer in children and adults are the following: 

  • Liver cirrhosis or hemochromatosis: 

Chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis or hemochromatosis, tend to be among the most common antecedents found in liver cancer patients.

At least half of those with liver cancer suffer or have suffered from cirrhosis, a chronic disease that causes liver tissue to become fibrotic. 

Other conditions also cause cirrhosis and, consequently, are considered liver cancer-causing diseases. These can be a diet high in alcohol or fat, which causes constant injury to the liver.

  • Tobacco smoking
Man smoking tobacco and drinking a beer. 

Constant consumption of alcohol and cigarettes is one of the causes of diseases that lead to liver cancer .

  • Prolonged exposure to chemicals such as aflatoxins:

Aflatoxins are toxins that are produced by the proliferation of fungi that are born in foods such as nuts, wheat, corn, corn, peanuts, soy, and rice when these have been stored in warm and humid environments for a long time. 

To avoid this, it is advisable to keep these foods in cool, dry places and not to eat those suspected of being spoiled.  

  • Hepatitis B or C viruses:

Hepatitis B and C, particularly in their chronic variant, usually cause severe damage to the liver, causing the patient to be more prone to develop cirrhosis and other diseases that cause liver cancer.

  • Having type 2 diabetes:

People with type 2 diabetes are at high risk of developing liver cancer, especially if they combine this condition with other factors such as daily consumption of large amounts of alcohol or fats. 

  • Consuming excessive alcohol and fats:

Excessive consumption of alcohol and fats in excess causes liver damage, which increases the chances of developing cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, among others and, consequently, is also considered one of the causes of liver cancer.

  • Hereditary liver diseases:

Some hereditary diseases such as Wilson’s disease are also considered risk factors for liver cancer.

Illustration of the fight against cancer

It is important to see a doctor if you suspect the presence of liver cancer or any of the diseases that cause it.

Other risk factors may also include age, gender and lifestyle. Generally speaking, men tend to be more prone to liver cancer than women. However, anyone can develop this or other diseases that cause liver cancer if they are exposed to one or more of the factors listed above on a consistent basis. 

These are some of the diseases that cause liver cancer and although there is still no single recognized cause and there are several types of carcinomas and tumors that can appear in the liver and other parts of the body, it is still important to be cautious and go to the doctor when the presence of any of them is suspected.

Verónica Guillén, editor

Content Intern Fundahigado America

Eugenia Jiménez Alvarez, proofreading

Fundahigado America coordination

Bachelor in Biomedical Sciences

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