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Liver (Hepatocellular) Cancer Prevention (PDQ®)

Liver (Hepatocellular) Cancer Prevention

Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.

Avoiding cancer risk factors may help prevent certain cancers. Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.

The following risk factors may increase the risk of liver cancer:

Hepatitis B and C

Having chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C increases the risk of developing liver cancer. The risk is even greater for people with both hepatitis B and C. Also, the longer the hepatitis infection lasts (especially hepatitis C), the greater the risk.

In a study of patients with chronic hepatitis C, those who were treated to lower their iron levels by having blood drawn and eating a low-iron diet were less likely to develop liver cancer than those who did not have this treatment.

Cirrhosis

The risk of developing liver cancer is increased for people who have cirrhosis, a disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue. The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver and keeps it from working as it should. Chronic alcoholism and chronic hepatitis C are the most common causes of cirrhosis.

Aflatoxin

The risk of developing liver cancer may be increased by eating foods that contain aflatoxin (poison from a fungus that can grow on foods, such as grains and nuts, that have not been stored properly).

The following protective factor may decrease the risk of liver cancer:

Hepatitis B vaccine

Preventing hepatitis B infection (by being vaccinated for hepatitis B) has been shown to lower the risk of liver cancer in children. It is not yet known if it lowers the risk in adults.

Cancer prevention clinical trials are used to study ways to prevent cancer.

Cancer prevention clinical trials are used to study ways to lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Some cancer prevention trials are conducted with healthy people who have not had cancer but who have an increased risk for cancer. Other prevention trials are conducted with people who have had cancer and are trying to prevent another cancer of the same type or to lower their chance of developing a new type of cancer. Other trials are done with healthy volunteers who are not known to have any risk factors for cancer.

The purpose of some cancer prevention clinical trials is to find out whether actions people take can prevent cancer. These may include eating fruits and vegetables, exercising, quitting smoking, or taking certain medicines, vitamins, minerals, or food supplements.

New ways to prevent liver cancer are being studied in clinical trials.

Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about clinical trials can be found in the Clinical Trials section of the NCI Web site. Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials for liver cancer prevention trials that are now accepting patients.

  • Updated: June 7, 2013