Some factors may slightly increase a person’s risk of developing primary liver cancer and these are described here.
People who are infected with hepatitis B or C have a higher risk of liver cancer if they smoke. Some studies have shown this risk to be more than a hundred times higher than that of non-smokers who don't have hepatitis infection. The effect of smoking on liver cancer for adults who don't have one of these viruses is not yet fully known. A higher risk of hepatoblastoma has been shown in children growing up in a household where both parents smoke.
This is scarring throughout the liver which can be due to a variety of causes. These include infection, heavy alcohol drinking over a long period of time, and a few rare conditions, such as haemochromatosis and primary biliary cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver increases the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and the risk varies depending on the cause of the cirrhosis. However, only a small number of people with cirrhosis of the liver develop primary liver cancer.
People with diabetes have a risk of liver cancer that is 2 or 3 times higher than people who do not have diabetes.
Infection with either the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus can lead to liver cancer and can also cause cirrhosis, which increases the risk of HCC. People with hepatitis B or C should avoid excessive amounts of alcohol, as this can further increase their risk of primary liver cancer.
In Africa and Asia a poison called aflatoxin is a major cause of HCC. The poison is found in mouldy peanuts, wheat, soya and grain.
Two reviews were carried out into all the results of research into bodyweight and liver cancer risk. One showed no association of liver cancer with bodyweight, but the other study showed that risk of liver cancer is higher in overweight and obese people. The review that showed an increased risk included more studies and it seems likely that being overweight does increase the risk of liver cancer. Diabetes is more common in people who are overweight, so this may partly explain the link.
Other risk factors
People who take anabolic steroids over a long period of time have a slightly increased risk of developing primary liver cancer. Anabolic steroids are mainly used by body-builders as they can increase muscle bulk.