Liver Cancer Risk Factors
In the case of liver cancer, risk factors have been identified that increase a person's chances of developing the disease. Risk factors for liver cancer include such things as having a chronic liver infection, being male, and having a family history of the disease. Other liver cancer risk factors include exposure to aflatoxin, having cirrhosis, and being 60 years of age or older.
No one knows the exact causes of liver cancer. Doctors can seldom explain why one person gets this disease and another does not. However, liver cancer research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop liver cancer. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chances of developing a disease.
Researchers have identified the following risk factors associated with liver cancer:
- Having a chronic liver infection (such as hepatitis)
- Exposure to aflatoxin
- Having cirrhosis
- Being male
- Having a family history of the disease
- Age (In the United States, liver cancer occurs more often in people over 60 than in younger people.).
Certain viruses can infect the liver. The infection may be chronic, meaning it does not go away. The most important risk factor for liver cancer is a chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus or the hepatitis C virus. These viruses can be passed from person to person through blood (such as by sharing needles) or through sexual contact. An infant may catch these viruses from an infected mother. Liver cancer can develop after many years of infection with the virus.
The risk for liver cancer can be increased through long-term exposure to aflatoxin, a harmful substance made by certain types of mold. Aflatoxin can form on peanuts, corn, and other nuts and grains. In Asia and Africa, aflatoxin contamination is a problem. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow the sale of foods that have high levels of aflatoxin.