Liver Cancer : Risk Factors

The risk factors for the incidence of liver cancer are as follows:

(1) Age: The incidence of liver cancer is more common among men of middle age.

(2) Sex: Men are twice as likely to develop liver cancer, compared to women.

(3) Family history: A person is more likely to develop liver cancer if he/she has other first-degree relatives, afflicted with the same disease. This could probably be attributed to certain genetic factors that are shared between members of the same family.

(4) Cirrhosis of the liver: Cirrhosis is a liver disease that occurs due to long-term damage to the liver as a result of alcohol consumption, viral infection (Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C), hemochromatosis (genetic disorder characterized by defect in iron metabolism). About 5% of those with cirrhosis have chances of developing liver cancer.

(5) Alcohol consumption: When a person who has been drinking alcohol stops drinking, the liver cells try to rectify the damage. This process of regeneration can lead to genetic change that can result in liver cancer. The risk of developing cancer may be greater when there is a concomitant liver infection.

(6) Aflatoxin contamination: Certain chemical agents can give rise to cancer. Such substances are called carcinogens. Aflatoxin B1, produced by a mold (Aspergillus flavus) has been known to have a strong association with respect to liver cancer. The human body has got certain genes that protect against cancer. Such genes are called tumor suppressor genes (p53 gene). Aflatoxin has been found to inactivate these genes, eventually predisposing to cancer.

(7) Hepatitis: Hepatitis is infection of the liver. Hepatitis B virus may induce a genetic change in the normal liver cells which could be responsible for causing liver cancer. A prolonged period of infection with the Hepatitis B virus causes liver cancer.

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