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Is Liver Cancer Genetic Or Caused By Lifestyle?

Is Liver Cancer Genetic Or Caused By Lifestyle?

Hearing that someone in your family has liver cancer can be quite overwhelming. On top of thinking about their condition, you might also have this thought at the back of your mind: Am I at risk, too? Is liver cancer genetic or caused by lifestyle?

Is liver cancer genetic?

Some reports indicate that having a family history of liver cancer increases a person’s risk of developing the condition. But, is it because family members share the same genes? Or is it due to the similarities between the members’ lifestyles?

Depending on the situation, it could be both.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, liver cancer doesn’t have a genetic or hereditary link. However, some hereditary conditions predispose a person to develop liver cancer.

Two of those health conditions are:

  • Hemochromatosis – A person with hereditary hemochromatosis absorbs too much iron from their diet. As a result, the iron settles in body tissues, including the liver. Iron build up over time may result in cirrhosis or liver cancer.
  • Wilson’s disease – Someone who has Wilson’s disease experiences copper buildup in their body. It often leads to liver-related symptoms that may increase liver cancer risk.

People who have any hereditary liver issues are advised to reduce their exposure to the modifiable risk factors that further puts them at risk of liver cancer.

With this information, it’s safe to say that, to a degree, liver cancer is genetic, but it can also be caused by lifestyle.

Risk factors for liver cancer

Now that we have answered the question, is liver cancer genetic?, let’s talk about the lifestyle factor. The following risk factors are associated with a person’s lifestyle:

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis, an irreversible condition, happens when scar tissues form in the liver. While not all liver cirrhosis cases result from lifestyle choices, people become more at risk if they are obese or drink alcohol excessively.

Chronic viral hepatitis

Long-term infection with hepatitis B or C virus might also put you at risk of liver cancer. You can reduce your risk of hepatitis B infection by getting vaccinated. On the other hand, you can prevent hepatitis C by practicing safe sex and being careful with tattoos and piercings.

is liver cancer genetic or caused by lifestyle

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Increased NAFLD risk can be inherited, although the inheritance pattern is unknown. Besides the genetic factor, the accumulation of fat in the liver can also result from lifestyle. According to reports, NAFLD is a common condition in people with obesity.

Diabetes

People with blood sugar conditions, like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, are also at a higher risk of developing liver cancer.

One report revealed that people with type 1 diabetes show 20 to 25% higher cancer incidence. People with type 2 diabetes are also two to three times more at risk of developing cancer of the liver.

While you cannot prevent type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is largely preventable by making healthy lifestyle changes.

Aflatoxin exposure

Aflatoxins are cancer-causing substances found in poorly-stored crops such as peanuts, soybeans, corn, and rice. Long-term exposure to aflatoxins increases a person’s risk of liver cancer.

Alcohol abuse

Finally, we cannot talk about the risk factors for liver cancer without mentioning alcohol abuse. People who drink alcohol heavily over many years have increased liver cancer risk.

Key Takeaways

Is liver cancer genetic or caused by lifestyle? Like mentioned, depending on the situation, it can be both.

For one, some inheritable liver conditions predispose a person to developing liver cancer. Additionally, people within the family often have exposure to the same risk factors.

But, we cannot deny that lifestyle plays a huge role in a person’s liver cancer risk. Case in point, long-term alcohol abuse can significantly damage the liver and trigger cancer. Furthermore, obesity increases the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is also a known risk factor.

One thing is for sure: if you already have a liver condition, it’s best to reduce your exposure to the other risk factors. When needed, seek medical attention.

Learn more about Liver Cancer here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Liver Cancer Risk Factors
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html
Accessed January 15, 2021

FAQs about Hepatocellular Cancer
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gastroenterology_hepatology/diseases_conditions/faqs/hepatocellular_cancer.html
Accessed January 15, 2021

Inherited hepatocellular carcinoma
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20955973/
Accessed January 15, 2021

Risks and causes
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/liver-cancer/risks-causes
Accessed January 15, 2021

Cancer incidence in persons with type 1 diabetes: a five-country study of 9,000 cancers in type 1 diabetic individuals
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4826427/#:~:text=Persons%20with%20diabetes%20have%20an,and%20kidney%20cancer%20%5B1%5D.
Accessed January 15, 2021

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/non-alcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/#:~:text=An%20increased%20risk%20of%20developing,of%20developing%20this%20complex%20disorder.
Accessed January 15, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 18
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.
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