Author Archives: Neeraj Shah

Risk Factors and Causes of Liver Cancer

Liver cancer may not have as high a profile as some other forms of cancer but it is one of the most lethal forms of cancer. Most people do not survive beyond a year after being diagnosed with it. A peculiar fact about liver cancer is that its risk factors are mostly related to lifestyle choices and behavior such as alcohol use, sexual behavior, drug abuse, and occupation.

The most common risk factor/cause of liver cancer is spread from other cancer sites in the body (metastasis) but this causes Secondary liver cancer. The risk factors that are discussed here are those that result in Primary liver cancer which is cancer that originates in the liver.

Risk Factors for Liver Cancer

Sex: Liver cancer occurs more in males than females. This could be attributed to the fact that males are more likely to engage in behavior that predispose to developing liver cancer such as excessive alcoholic intake and use of anabolic steroids. (1) (2)

Age

Cancer of the liver is more common in older people in developed regions of the world. In contrast, it occurs more in younger persons in developing areas like Africa and Asia. (2)

Hepatitis

Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) both lead to cirrhosis and consequently, liver cancer. HCV infection is more likely to become chronic and is the more common cause of liver cancer in developed areas like the United States. HBV is the more prevalent risk factor in developing regions. Both viruses are transmitted through such means as unprotected sex, sharing needles (drug abusers) and contaminated blood transfusions. (1) (2) (3) (4)

Excessive Alcohol Intake

Prolonged alcohol abuse leads to irreversible liver damage and consequently, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. (2) (4)

Aflatoxins

These are substances produced by fungi which grow on food such as wheat, corn, rice, peanuts, etc. Eating food contaminated with aflatoxins over a long period of time increases the risk of liver cancer. (1) (2) (3) (4)

Prolonged Use of Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are hormones used to increase muscle bulk by athletes and body builders. Long-term use increases the risk of liver cancer. (1) (3) (4)

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

In this condition, fats called triglycerides accumulate in the liver. It is seen in diabetic patients and obese people and leads to cirrhosis. It is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer. (1) (2) (4)

Exposure to Chemical Compounds:

Certain chemical compounds greatly increase the risk of liver cancer. They include vinyl chloride which is used in making plastics and arsenic which is found in water from some wells. Prolonged exposure to these compounds increases the risk of developing liver cancer. (1) (3) (4)

Liver Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis is the end result of several types of insult to the liver and is one of the most important risk factors for liver cancer. In this condition, damaged liver cells are replaced by non-functioning scar tissue. Cirrhosis can be caused by obesity, alcohol abuse, hepatitis infection, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, autoimmune diseases, and metabolic diseases of the liver. (1) (2) (3)

Smoking

This has not been totally proven but some scientists say there is a link between smoking tobacco and an increased risk of liver cancer. The effect of smoking is seen to be more pronounced in people who have hepatitis or abuse alcohol. (1) (3) (4)

Immunosuppression

Depressed immunity such as in people who suffer from HIV/AIDS or in transplant patients who take immunosuppressive medication can lead to an increased risk of developing liver cancer. This may be because they are more likely to be infected with hepatitis viruses. (3)

Contraceptive Pills

That contraceptive pills increase the risk of developing liver cancer is still a controversial issue. Contraceptive pills have been found to cause benign liver tumors called hepatic adenomas but it is not clear if this increases the risk of liver cancer. (1) (3)

Obesity

Studies have shown that liver cancer occurs more in overweight and obese people. This could be because obesity can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cirrhosis which are both risk factors for liver cancer. It could also be related to diabetes as diabetic people are commonly overweight. (1) (2) (3) (4)

Family History

A history of liver cancer in other family members especially first-degree relatives like a parent or sibling increases the risk of a person developing liver cancer. Other forms of cancer e.g. prostate cancer in such a relative may also increase this risk. (3)

Diabetes

Research has shown that people who suffer from diabetes are more prone to developing liver cancer than those who do not. Diabetes increases the risk two- to threefold. Diabetes is also associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and obesity. (1) (2) (3) (4)

Inherited Metabolic Diseases

These are rare diseases present at birth which cause an increased risk of liver cancer. An example is Hemochromatosis in which the body absorbs too much iron from food leading to liver cirrhosis. Other such conditions include Wilson’s disease, porphyria cutanea tarda, tyrosinemia, and glycogen storage diseases. (1) (2) (4)

Sources:

1. What the Risk Factors for Liver Cancer?

http://our.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_2X_What_are_the_risk_factors_for_liver_cancer_25.asp

2. Liver Cancer: Risk Factors

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/liver-cancer/DS00399/DSECTION=risk-factors

3. Risks and Causes of Liver Cancer

http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/liver-cancer/about/risks-and-causes-of-liver-cancer

4. Liver Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention

http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/271.cfm

Dear Cancer

Dear Cancer:

This is to let you know that I hate you. No, hate is not the right word, it’s more like detest. Yes, I detest you and all you stand for and all you have done and all you will ever do. You have no conscience, you do not discriminate and you always press forward with malice aforethought. It’s all about you, isn’t it? It’s about how much you can destroy in record time. And once you have started, you just don’t stop until everything and everyone around you is destroyed, or at the very least, changed for life.

You started out in my life as a nasty thorn in my Mother-In-Law’s side. She thought she was over you, she thought all was forgotten and that you would never come back, but that of course is not your way. You waited for her to have a life, to have children and a career and then you snuck back in and took it all away. She did do a number on you, though, she fought you. She fought you with everything she had and every tool imaginable. She was even going to let others study what you had done to see if they could find a way to stop you. But you were too strong. You were too knowledgeable in the ways of destruction. You won.

Next time I met up with you it was my Uncle you decided to attack. He was strong, in his prime of life, 50 years old also with kids and a family. I know, you don’t care, it doesn’t affect you, I don’t know why I even bring it up. But you got him where it hurts. This time, you not only took a life but made your victim suffer first by nearly crippling him. He had to use a cane and was in much pain towards the end of his life. Just so you know, he may have gone too soon, but he went quietly with his wife by his side.

Then, as if that were not enough, you picked on two other uncles almost in the same way. They both had to have operations and one of them got their larynx removed. That was cute. He had to spend the rest of his life talking with a microphone on the outside of his throat. You thought that was pretty clever didn’t you? You thought you were pretty smooth. You got what you wanted and moved on to other areas so they could continue suffering until they died. You unrelenting pig!

Last, but not least, you decide to go after my best friend. How could you? You just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you? No, you had to show me your truly ugly side. Good job. Well done. You took her way too young and you know it. You were coy this time. You didn’t show up until it was way too late to do anything about it. You were probably enjoying the fact that she already had something removed and thought she was in the clear. But no, you came back with a vengeance. You came back on top and didn’t give her a chance in hell. You wrapped yourself around so tightly, no one could get to you. I had to watch, you know, and I saw it all. I saw the way you took her hope away. I saw how you alienated her children with fear. I saw how you took away her speech. Oh, you’re good!

But I have news for you. Her family and I weren’t about to let her suffer by herself. We weren’t about to let you take over and destroy her slowly without a fight. Yes, we helped her cope, we comforted her, and we got her through the tough nights of no sleep and the rough days of no eating. We were right there by her side and we refused to let her face you alone. So you won, but you lost! We made sure everyone knew what you were doing and we fought you with love and understanding.

So, in the end, I want you to know that I still detest you, even more if that’s possible. I loathe the air in which you breathe and the cells in which you breed. I will celebrate the day they destroy you and if you ever dare to show your ugly face in my presence again, just be forewarned: I’ll be ready. I know what you did and I know where you live!

Signed, 
Your Sworn Enemy.