Liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is a type of cancer that starts in the liver. It is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide, with an estimated 905,000 new cases and 830,000 deaths reported in 2020 alone. However, the good news is that there are ways to reduce your risk of developing liver cancer.
In this article, we will explore some of the key prevention strategies for liver cancer, as recommended by experts in the field.
Risk Factors for Liver Cancer
Before we delve into prevention strategies, it’s important to understand the risk factors for liver cancer. Some of the most common risk factors include:
Chronic hepatitis B or C infection: These viral infections can cause inflammation and damage to the liver, increasing the risk of liver cancer.
Alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption over a long period of time can also cause liver damage and increase the risk of liver cancer.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): NAFLD is a condition where there is excessive fat buildup in the liver, which can lead to inflammation and scarring.
Obesity: Obesity is a risk factor for NAFLD, as well as other health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of liver cancer.
Exposure to aflatoxins: Aflatoxins are toxins produced by a type of fungus that can grow on crops such as peanuts and corn. Long-term exposure to aflatoxins can increase the risk of liver cancer.
Now that we’ve covered some of the key risk factors for liver cancer, let’s explore some of the ways you can reduce your risk of developing the disease.
Get vaccinated for hepatitis B
Chronic hepatitis B infection is a major risk factor for liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect against the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all infants, children, and adolescents receive the hepatitis B vaccine, as well as adults who are at risk for the infection.
Screening and treatment for hepatitis B and C
If you are at risk for hepatitis B or C infection, it’s important to get screened regularly. Early detection and treatment of these infections can help prevent liver damage and reduce the risk of liver cancer.
Limit alcohol consumption
Heavy alcohol consumption over a long period of time can cause liver damage and increase the risk of liver cancer. To reduce your risk, it’s important to limit your alcohol consumption. The CDC recommends that men should not have more than two drinks per day, and women should not have more than one drink per day.
Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity is a risk factor for NAFLD, which can increase the risk of liver cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce your risk. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet can also help reduce your risk of liver cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and low in saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and processed meats.
Avoid exposure to aflatoxins
Aflatoxins are toxins produced by a type of fungus that can grow on crops such as peanuts and corn. Long-term exposure to
Get regular exercise
Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle and can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including liver cancer. Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, reduce inflammation in the body, and improve overall health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking or cycling.
Avoid tobacco products
Tobacco use is a known risk factor for many types of cancer, including liver cancer. If you use tobacco products, quitting is the best way to reduce your risk of developing liver cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider about options for quitting smoking or using other tobacco products.
Manage chronic health conditions
Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and NAFLD can increase the risk of liver cancer. It’s important to manage these conditions through lifestyle changes and medication as recommended by your healthcare provider. Regular check-ups and screenings can help detect any changes in your health and allow for early intervention if needed.
Protect yourself from hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B and C infections are major risk factors for liver cancer. To protect yourself, avoid sharing needles or other injection equipment, practice safe sex, and get vaccinated for hepatitis B if you are at risk.
Know your family history
Liver cancer can sometimes run in families, so it’s important to know your family history of the disease. If you have a family history of liver cancer, talk to your healthcare provider about steps you can take to reduce your risk.
Liver cancer is a serious disease that can be prevented through a combination of lifestyle changes and medical interventions. By getting vaccinated for hepatitis B, getting screened and treated for hepatitis B and C, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding tobacco products, managing chronic health conditions, protecting yourself from hepatitis B and C, and knowing your family history, you can reduce your risk of developing liver cancer.
It’s important to remember that prevention is key when it comes to liver cancer, as early detection and treatment can greatly improve outcomes. Talk to your healthcare provider about steps you can take to reduce your risk of liver cancer and to schedule regular check-ups and screenings. With the right prevention strategies in place, you can take control of your health and reduce your risk of liver cancer.