Causes and risk factors of primary liver cancer

Every organ in the body has a vital function to perform and contributes to the overall well-being of the body. However, there are ailments that are known to affect these organs. Most of these ailments can be cured completely, whereas, there are other diseases that are quite formidable as there is no known cure for them. Cancer is one such disease, the cure to which remains unknown. It can affect any part of the body and can have life-threatening consequences if left undetected.

One such form of cancer that is the tenth most common cancer and is the fifth most common cause of cancer death is liver cancer. The liver is a pivotal organ that filters the blood which circulates throughout the body. It even converts nutrients and drugs absorbed from the digestive tract into ready-to-use chemicals and performs other important functions like removing toxins and other chemical waste products from the blood. What makes the liver susceptible to cancer is that it is the medium through which the blood in the body keeps passing, thereby making it easily accessible to the cancer cells that travel in the bloodstream.

Liver cancer can be primary, where cancer arises in the liver itself or it can be secondary, where cancer starts in some other part of the body but spreads to the liver. Usually, liver cancer is secondary or metastatic. However, primary liver cancer accounts for about 2% of cancers in the country.

Causes of liver cancer
Though the exact cause of primary liver cancer remains unknown, it is believed that liver cancer affects those livers damaged by birth defects; chronic infection with diseases like hepatitis B and C; alcohol abuse; hemochromatosis, which is a hereditary disease that is associated with the presence of too much iron in the liver; and cirrhosis. In fact, more than half of the population diagnosed with primary liver cancer had cirrhosis, which is a scarring condition of the liver that is caused by rampant alcohol abuse.

Even hepatitis B and C and hemochromatosis are known to cause permanent damage and liver failure. Moreover, liver cancer is also linked to fatty liver disease and obesity. Liver cancer occurs when the liver cell mutates in their DNA, which is the material that instructs the chemical process in the body. These DNA mutations can result in changes in the instructions. A major repercussion of this phenomenon is that it allows the cells to grow out of control and they eventually form a tumor which is a mass of cancerous cells. Also, there are certain risk factors that make a person more vulnerable to liver cancer. These risk factors are as follows:

  • Diabetes– People with blood sugar disorder are at a greater risk of developing liver cancer than those who don’t have diabetes.
  • Certain inherited liver diseases– Liver diseases like hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease can increase the risk of developing liver cancer.
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease– An accumulation of fat in the liver increases an individual’s risk of developing liver cancer.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption– Consuming a lot of alcohol can lead to irreversible liver damage and thereby increases the risk of liver cancer.
  • Exposure to aflatoxins– Aflatoxins are poisons that are produced by molds that grow on the crops that are not stored properly. Crops such as peanuts and corns can be easily contaminated by aflatoxins.
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