Liver Cancer

(Malignant Hepatoma; Hepatocellular Carcinoma; Primary Liver Cancer)

Definition

The liver is located in the right side of the abdomen. It stores and metabolizes nutrients. It also filters and stores blood. Liver cancer is the growth of cancer cells in the liver.

Causes

Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.

Risk Factors

Liver cancer is more common in men, and in people over 40 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of liver cancer include:
  • Infection with the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus
  • Formation of scar tissue in the liver, also known as cirrhosis
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Exposure to an infectious agent, such as a liver fluke, which is found in southern Pacific countries
  • Abnormal collection of iron in body tissues— hemochromatosis
  • Hereditary metabolic disorders such as alpha-antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency and tyrosinemia
  • Exposure to certain chemicals:
    • Aflatoxin—a substance made by a fungus that often infects wheat, peanuts, soybeans, corn, and rice in tropical and subtropical regions
    • Vinyl chloride and thorium dioxide—chemicals that are strictly controlled
    • Anabolic steroids—male hormones sometimes given for medical reasons, but also taken by athletes to increase strength
    • Toxins, such as arsenic
Liver Cancer Due to Cirrhosis
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