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What Are the Causes of Liver Cancer?

Article Details
  • Written By: Helen Akers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 30 March 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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The causes of liver cancer seem to be directly related to a certain set of risks. These include viral infections, obesity, ethnicity and gender. Liver cancer may also be more likely due to some diseases and exposure to certain toxic chemicals, alcohol, and steroids. Infection with the hepatitis C and B viruses seems to be one of the leading causes.

There are several different lifestyle and genetic factors that are thought be causes of liver cancer. Males and those of Asian and Native American descent are at a greater risk of developing liver cancer. Excessive alcohol intake and steroid use in athletes have been linked to the development of tumors in the liver. Being extremely overweight is one of the additional lifestyle and genetic causes of liver cancer.

Diseases such as diabetes and hepatitis C and B are thought to increase an individual's chance of developing liver cancer. Diabetes alone is not necessarily a cause, but an individual who has the disease and also drinks excessive amounts of alcohol is at a greater risk than someone who is not diabetic. Hepatitis, which is transmitted through blood on blood contact, sex without the use of protection, and shared needles, is a dangerous infection that scars liver tissue.

Cirrhosis, which is the medical term for scarred liver tissue, can occur as a result of genetics or infection. When healthy liver tissue is replaced with scarred tissue, this greatly increases the chance for liver cancer. One of the leading causes of liver cancer is scarred liver tissue from hepatitis infection and the development of too much fat in the liver. This can occur as the result of fatty liver disease that is passed on through DNA or occurs as a result of excess alcohol intake.

Several toxic chemicals found in some foods have been shown to be causes of liver cancer. These include aflaxtoxins, which are cancer promoting chemicals found in soy, peanuts, wheat, rice, and corn. Many industrialized nations check the food supply for these chemicals, but in nations that do not there is a risk of developing liver cancer if an individual consumes them regularly.

Additional toxic chemicals linked to liver cancer include arsenic, vinyl chloride, and thorium dioxide. Arsenic is mainly found in well water. Exposure to vinyl chloride and thorium dioxide is not likely, as the release of these two chemicals is controlled.

Athletes who regularly use steroids for muscle development are at a greater risk of developing liver cancer. Steroid use has been linked to higher instances of the disease in populations using these artificial hormones to increase the strength of their muscles. The increased risk is usually seen in those who use steroids over a long period of time.

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