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Liver Cancer

Cancer is made of changed cells that grow out of control. The changed (abnormal) cells often grow to form a lump or mass called a tumor. Cancer cells can also grow into (invade) nearby areas. And they can spread to other parts of the body. This is called metastasis.

The liver is a large organ that lies behind the ribs on the right side of your body under your lungs. It helps break down and store nutrients such as sugars, starch, fats, and proteins. It also makes clotting factors that keep you from bleeding. One of the liver’s key jobs is to filter out toxins in the blood.

Liver cancer is cancer that starts in your liver. There are different kinds of liver cancer, but the most common type in adults is called hepatocellular carcinoma. It starts in the main liver cells called hepatocytes.

Who is at risk for liver cancer?

A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. The exact cause of someone’s cancer may not be known. But risk factors can make it more likely for a person to have cancer. Some risk factors may not be in your control. But others may be things you can change.

The risk factors for liver cancer include:

  • Hepatitis B or C infection
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis)
  • Being male
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Food tainted with fungus called aflatoxin
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Exposure to certain chemicals such as vinyl chloride
  • Long-term use of anabolic steroids
  • High levels of arsenic in your drinking water
  • Smoking

Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors for liver cancer and what you can do about them.

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