Liver cancer risk factors and prevention
Because several of the risk factors listed above are related to lifestyle, there are ways to reduce risk of liver cancer.
Prevention of liver cancer
- Vaccinate children against hepatitis B. The HBV vaccine is recommended for all infants and children up to age 18 years by the World Health Organization (WHO). Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available yet for hepatitis C.
- Treat hepatitis C. Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, it’s usually possible to cure the infection with antiviral treatment, and most people with it will have a normal life expectancy.
- Avoid sharing needles and use safe sex practices (e.g. use condoms). Hepatitis B and C can spread from person to person through sharing contaminated needles (such as in drug use) and through unprotected sex.
- Limit alcohol and tobacco use. Drinking is a major risk factor for cirrhosis and liver cancer. Tobacco increases the risk of liver cancer and many other diseases.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Avoiding obesity can reduce the risk of fatty liver disease, which is linked to liver cancer.
Very few countries have introduced a nationwide liver cancer screening program. There are a few exceptions, such as Japan, China, and South Korea. There is a particularly high burden of disease in these countries, largely due to a high prevalence of hepatitis B. The national liver cancer screening program in South Korea – as an example – is for groups at high risk of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or other liver diseases using liver ultrasonography and serum alpha-fetoprotein measurement.
However, in most countries, there is no screening. Therefore it is important that people at high risk are aware of the symptoms to increase their chances to be diagnosed at an early stage. Anyone with a family history of the disease or other risk factors should talk with their doctor about steps they can take to monitor or reduce their risk.