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Liver Cancer Awareness Month: What Are the Risk Factors?

October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month. Understanding the function of your liver and how to keep it healthy can help prevent cancer.

The liver has many important functions. It breaks down, stores, and helps transfer nutrients your body needs. The liver also breaks down alcohol, drugs, and toxic wastes in the blood, which then pass from the body through urine and stool.

Taking care of your liver is important to avoid harmful diseases, like cancer, that can form in the liver’s cells. The liver is mainly composed of cells called hepatocytes. There are other cells that line blood vessels and the small tubes in the liver called bile ducts. In these cells is where cancerous tumors form.

Liver cancer can be prevented by reducing exposure to the known risk factors. Here are some ways to prevent liver cancer recommended by the American Cancer Society.

Avoid and Treat Hepatitis B and C Infections

Worldwide, the most significant risk factor for liver cancer is chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). These viruses can spread from person to person through sharing contaminated needles (such as in drug use) through unprotected sex, and through childbirth, so some liver cancers may be avoided by not sharing needles and by using safer sex practices (such as always using condoms).

Limit Alcohol and Tobacco Use

Drinking alcohol can lead to cirrhosis, which in turn, can lead to liver cancer. Not drinking alcohol or drinking in moderation could help prevent liver cancer.

Since smoking also increases the risk of liver cancer, not smoking will also prevent some of these cancers. If you smoke, quitting will help lower your risk of this cancer, as well as many other cancers and life-threatening diseases.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Avoiding obesity might be another way to help protect against liver cancer. People who are obese are more likely to have fatty liver disease and diabetes, both of which have been linked to liver cancer.


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