The most frequent cause of liver cancer is cirrhosis of the liver, a disease that underlies most of those affected with this tumor, especially in cases related to viral and alcoholic hepatitis, although not all cirrhosis ends in liver cancer or all hepatocarcinoma are based on cirrhosis. These are the other risk factors for liver cancer (CH):

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)

Of the 170 million people infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), only 20% will develop cirrhosis of the liver. These are the most at risk of developing liver cancer (between 1% and 4% a year). In our setting, of all diagnoses of hepatocarcinoma, 65% have anti-HCV antibodies. It appears that HCV exerts intrinsic carcinogenic action, and independent of the fact of developing cirrhosis, by phenomena that prevent programmed cell death (apoptosis) and by proinflammatory phenomena. However, the vast majority of cases of liver cancer in people with hepatitis C virus infection occur when liver cirrhosis is already present.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV)

It is the primary causal agent of liver cancer worldwide, although in the Western countries we have already commented that the most frequent cause is HCV. The World Health Organization considers it the second most powerful carcinogen after tobacco. The problem is that the population (mainly in East Asian countries) acquire HBV at a very early age, which is chronicled; In this way, those affected are exposed for many years to the damage caused by chronic liver inflammation, hence cirrhosis and liver cancer. There is one study that shows that the risk of liver cancer is 100 times higher in carriers of an antigen against hepatitis B virus than in non-carriers.

There is no doubt that universal vaccination campaigns for HBV in newborns will reduce the prevalence and incidence of HBV, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.


It is not a direct carcinogen, but there is a direct relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of developing liver cancer that almost doubles among drinkers of 100 gr/day. (To give you an idea, if we ingest 100 ccs of a drink with 42 °, the amount of absolute alcohol ingested would have been 33.6 grams of pure alcohol according to the following formula: 100 x 42/100 x 0.8 = 33, 6 grams). The risk is increased by cirrhosis; the risk is considered to be sevenfold higher in cirrhotic alcoholics.

Other causes of liver cancer

Tobacco, insulin resistance, schistosomiasis (a common parasitic disease in Africa and some parts of Latin America and the Middle East), iron overload (as in hemochromatosis ), dietary factors, drugs and chemicals, and so on that affects our health.

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