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Cancer Health Center

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Understanding Liver Cancer -- the Basics

What Causes Liver Cancer? continued...

Various cancer-causing substances are associated with primary liver cancer, including certain herbicides and chemicals such as vinyl chloride and arsenic. Smoking, especially if you abuse alcohol as well, also increases risk. Aflatoxins, cancer-causing substances made by a type of plant mold, have also been implicated. Aflatoxins can contaminate wheat, peanuts, rice, corn, and soybeans. These are rare problems in most developed countries like the U.S. Other causes include the hormones androgen and estrogen and a dye formerly used in medical tests called thorotrast.

Other risk factors for liver cancer may include:

  • Your sex. Men are more likely to get hepatocellular carcinoma than women.
  • Your weight. Obesity can increase the risk for hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Your race. In the U.S., liver cancer is most common in Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Anabolic steroid use. Male hormones abused by athletes to increase muscle can slightly increase liver cancer risk with long-term use.
  • History of diabetes. Studies have suggested a link between diabetes and liver cancer. This is likely due to the link between diabetes and fatty liver disease.
  • Inherited metabolic diseases. Diseases that disrupt the normal metabolism of the body have been shown to increase your risk of liver cancer.
  • Rare diseases. Studies have found a link between liver cancer and some rare diseases like alpha -1-antitrypsin deficiency, tyrosinemia, and Wilson's disease.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on March 15, 2015
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