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Liver cancer

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Risk reduction strategies for liver cancer

Risk reduction is taking action to lower one’s risk of developing cancer. The following risk reduction strategies may reduce the chance of developing liver cancer.

Protect yourself against hepatitis infection

Chronic infection with hepatitis B or C virus increases the risk of developing liver cancer. The risk of hepatitis infection can be reduced by:

  • getting vaccinated against hepatitis B virus
    • There is no vaccine available to protect against hepatitis C virus.
  • practising safer sex
    • Using a condom will protect against hepatitis B and C virus, as well as other sexually transmitted infections.
    • Avoid blood-to-blood contact during sex.
  • not sharing any needles or other drug-use equipment
    • Participate in a needle exchange program if you use intravenous drugs.
  • wearing latex gloves when you come into contact with someone else’s blood
  • making sure all equipment is clean and sterile when you get a tattoo, body piercing or acupuncture
    • Never allow anyone to use homemade or reused needles, ink or jewellery.

Canadian Blood Services tests every blood donation for hepatitis B and C viruses. Since only blood that passes these tests is used, the risk of contracting hepatitis through a blood transfusion in Canada is very low.

Get treated for hepatitis infection

Treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection can reduce the amount of virus in a person, which may lead to a lower risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection can reduce, and in some people eliminate, the virus completely. Treating the virus may also lead to a lower risk of cirrhosis and developing liver cancer. However, many people do not know that they are infected with a hepatitis infection. People who are at high risk for developing hepatitis B and C, such as those who share needles, should be tested regularly so they can begin treatment if they are found to have either infection.

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

Drinking large amounts of alcohol can cause cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis increases the risk of developing liver cancer.

If you have hepatitis or other forms of liver disease, you may want to drink less alcohol or avoid it altogether.

Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of developing liver cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol, keep it to less than 1 drink a day for women and less than 2 drinks a day for men. The less you drink, the more you reduce your risk.

Be a non-smoker and avoid second-hand smoke

Smoking increases the risk of developing liver cancer. If you smoke, get help to quit.

Be physically active and maintain a healthy body weight

People who are obese have a higher risk of developing liver cancer. Being obese contributes to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and diabetes. NASH can progress to cirrhosis, increasing the risk of developing liver cancer.

A healthy, well-balanced diet and regular physical activity are 2 of the best ways to reach and keep a healthy body weight. People who are overweight or obese should avoid gaining any more weight and try to lose weight by eating healthier and exercising more.

Avoid exposure to harmful substances in the workplace

Workers in certain industries may be exposed to harmful substances, such as vinyl chloride and plutonium, which can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. Follow occupational health and safety standards if you work in an industry that processes, stores, transports or uses any cancer-causing substances.

Get treatment if you have a disease that increases the risk of liver cancer

In addition to hepatitis B and C, several diseases increase the risk of developing liver cancer. Treatment reduces damage to the liver caused by these diseases and reduces the risk of developing liver cancer.

More information about reducing cancer risk

Learn about what you can do to reduce cancer risk.


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