Liver cancer is a serious illness which can be fatal. There are multiple causes of the disease, but the most common risk factor is chronic hepatitis infection.
Sometimes the actual cause is not easy to pinpoint, and there are some disease that are inherited which can increase your risk.
Physicians state that the best way to deal with liver cancer is to prevent its occurrence.
If you feel you may be at risk for liver cancer, there are steps you can take to prevent it.
Causes of Liver Cancer
Cancerous cells develop when the DNA in a cell is ruined or altered in some way. Exactly how this happens is not entirely understood. However, the chemicals that alter liver cells are well documented.
The most common chemicals affecting DNA are called aflatoxins, which assault the TP53 tumor suppressor gene. TP53 prevents abnormal cell growth.
What is important to know is that certain behaviors (listed below) facilitate the growth of aflatoxins and other harmful chemicals. By cutting down on those behaviors, your risk greatly decreases.
Inherited Liver Diseases
There are two common inherited liver disease. If either of these run in the family, it is important that you periodically screen for cancer. Early detection is the easiest way to control liver cancer.
This disease results from iron deposits that build up in your liver. It is a commonly inherited disease. Nearly 1 in 200 people develop this disease.
If you have Hemoschromatosis, you may have signs of diabetes, heart disease, and cirrhosis. This disease is treatable and requires patients to mitigate iron levels. Effectively managing Hemochromatosis lowers your risk of liver cancer.
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
This is a protein that is necessary for your blood. Instead of being released into the blood stream, it accumulates in the liver. Some of the precursors to this deficiency are the same as for liver cancer like smoking, alcohol, and an unhealthy diet.
Lifestyle Changes that Can Reduce Your Risk for Liver Cancer
In addition to these precautions, there are daily lifestyle changes you can make to decrease your risk of liver cancer, including:
Maintain a Proper Weight
Obesity is linked to liver cancer. Being overweight puts you at risk for developing liver diseases, diabetes, and other precursors to liver cancer. By getting in shape, your body better regulates its internal processes.
Contact a doctor experienced in dealing with liver cancer. If you are obese and used to eating unhealthy foods, a liver surgeon can recommend some foods to help reduce your risks. A dietician or your family physician can set you on the path to dropping your body weight back to healthy levels.
Lower Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis of the liver. This is a common precursor to cancer. Try to cut down on the number of drinks you have every week. If you are able to eliminate alcohol from your diet entirely, that is even better.
Studies have also linked taking Vitamin D supplements to reducing your chances of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Cut Out Cigarettes
Smoking is another factor that increases risk. By quitting smoking, you eliminate hundreds of risks, symptoms, and disease. These risks compound off of one another. Smoking is one of the most dangerous habits you can have.
Lower Exposure to Chemicals
Aflatoxins, mentioned above, are present in many of the grains stored and shipped from tropical and subtropical countries. Efforts are underway to eliminate this toxic substance from those grains.
Workers in chemical facilities may also be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals. The EPA has identified several already. For instance, arsenic levels have been severely reduced in many at-risk communities around the United States, a chemical known for causing liver cancer. Be warned, many countries around the world have arsenic (and worse) in their water, which may cause cancer. Stay informed when traveling abroad, and buy bottled water when you can.
Reduce and Eliminate Drug Use
Some prescribed medications may put you at risk for liver cancer, especially if your family has a genetic predisposition. Illegal drug use increases your chances of getting other ailments that facilitate liver cancer, like hepatitis and HIV.
Prevent HBV and HCV
Hepatitis B and C viruses are the leading cause of developing liver cancer. Hepatitis B has a vaccine. Most children are vaccinated. If you have not received the shot, you need to as soon as possible. There is no preventative shot for HCV.
By understanding how hepatitis is spread, you can prevent this chronic ailment. It is a sexually transmitted disease, so using protection with strange sexual partners radically decreases risk. It can also be spread through bodily fluids, so kissing and oral sex can transmit the disease.
The disease is also spread intravenously, so it is commonly spread by drug use by sharing dirty needles. Women can also give the virus to their babies during childbirth. Finally, long-term hemodialysis can increase your chances of getting hepatitis.
Previously blood transfusions would often spread the disease, but now American blood banks test for the disease in every sample. The risk may be low.
Because HBV and HCV are so easily spread, doctors warn that when you travel to foreign countries with high rates of infection you still need to be careful. Foreign blood banks may not test their samples. Also, chances of infection increase in public places if you have open cuts or sores.
Contact Your Doctor for a Liver Cancer Screening
While regular screens don’t necessarily lower the risk of death by liver cancer, you should get screened if you are at risk. Asians and Africans are genetically predisposed to developing the cancer. If you have liver cirrhosis or a history of cancer, you should be tested. Hepatitis infections, alcoholism, fatty liver diseases, or biliary cirrhosis are all cause for getting a screen.
If you think you may have liver cancer, you want the best doctor you can get. Dr. Mark Fraiman is an accomplished, experienced liver surgeon. He is known in the medical community for his skilled and knowledgeable approach to liver cancer, and his short procedure times. He operates at the St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.