Understanding Liver Cancer

Liver cancer occurs when the liver, primarily, is affected by cancer cells. But most incidents of liver cancer are secondary or metastatic. This means the cancer itself came from another part of the body; and usually, it comes from the lung, colon or breast.

In the US, there are 2% cancer accounts of primary liver cancer and about a half of liver cancer cases are in undeveloped countries.  Men are more likely to get liver cancer than women while almost over fifty can become affected.

Type of liver cancer

Since the liver is made up of different cells, tumors of various forms can grow there. Some, like malignant tumors, can metastasize or develop in other parts of the body as some, compared to being benign or noncancerous, are cancerous.

Examples of benign tumors are hemangioma, hepatic adenoma, focal nodular hyperplasia. Because benign tumors are not treated as liver cancers, they can be removed by surgery if it causes bleeding or pain.

Liver cancers, on the other hand, are hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC and cholangiocarcinoma, which is practically, cancers of the bile duct.

Causes of liver cancers

  • Birth defects
  • alcohol abuse
  • other recurring infection caused by diseases like cirrhosis
  • hemochromatosis (a genetic condition in which there is too much iron in the liver)
  • hepatitis B or C.

There are more than half of people diagnosed with cancer that have cirrhosis due to excessive alcohol intake, hepatitis B and C, and hemochromatosis.

Substances that can cause liver cancer are particular herbicides. Other chemicals are vinyl chloride and arsenic. The addiction to anabolic steroids can be a factor as well.

Aflatoxins, the chemicals produced by a certain type of plant mold that can contaminate wheat, rice, corn, soybeans and peanuts, may also contribute to the development of primary liver cancer.

Alcohol abuse and smoking can cause primary liver cancer and even heighten its risk.