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Liver cancer

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Cancer is a disease in which cells become abnormal and form more cells in an uncontrolled way. With liver cancer, the cancer begins in the tissues that make up the liver. Asian-Americans have the highest rates of liver cancer in the United States. This is because Asian-Americans have high rates of hepatitis B, which is the main cause of liver cancer worldwide. Other risk factors for liver cancer include:

  • Having hepatitis C; having both hepatitis B and hepatitis C increases the risk even more.
  • Having a close relative with both hepatitis and liver cancer.
  • Having cirrhosis, which can be caused by:
    • Hepatitis (especially hepatitis C).
    • Drinking too much alcohol for many years or being an alcoholic.
  • Eating foods tainted with aflatoxin (poison from a fungus that can grow on foods, such as grains and nuts, that have not been stored properly).

Liver cancer often has no early sign or symptoms. Certain people at very high risk of getting liver cancer may be helped by screening tests that look for liver cancer before symptoms occur. If you have chronic hepatitis B, especially if you got it as a baby or child, talk to your doctor about your risk and whether you might benefit from liver cancer screening.

If you don't know if you have hepatitis B, get tested. If you do not have it, ask your doctor if you need the hepatitis B vaccine. This vaccine can stop 100 percent of liver cancers caused by hepatitis B.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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