What You Should Know About Liver Cancer

What You Should Know About Liver Cancer

An overview of symptoms, risk factors and ways to protect yourself from liver cancer.

Published November 6, 2011

Former heavyweight boxer Joe Frazier (pictured above).


The news that famed boxer Joe Frazier had been diagnosed with liver cancer appeared to blindside fans as brutally as Frazier’s famous left hook. Frazier was diagnosed about four weeks ago, according to his manager, and is in the late stages of the disease.


According to the American Cancer Society, liver cancer is much more common in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia than in the United States. However, in 2010, an estimated 18,910 people died from the disease in the U.S. in alone.


What are the symptoms?


Symptoms aren’t typically shown until the cancer is in its later stages, so it is seldom detected early. When they are present, symptoms include weight loss, vomiting, abdominal swelling and jaundice, or yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

What are the risk factors?

Worldwide, the biggest risk factor for liver cancer is infection with the hepatitis B or C virus, according to the American Cancer Society.  The viruses are spread through blood transfusions, from sharing dirty needles (as in drug use), by having unprotected sex, and through childbirth.


Alcohol abuse can also increase a person’s risk as it is the leading cause of cirrhosis, the disease where liver cells are damaged and replaced with scar tissue. This can often lead to the development of cancerous cells in the liver.


What are ways to prevent liver cancer?


The Mayo Clinic suggests limiting alcohol consumption to no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. The clinic also says maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime, being cautious with chemicals used in your home and workplace, and talking to you health care provider about getting vaccinated against hepatitis B will also cut your risk. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, but there are measures you can take to protect yourself.


Visit the Mayo Clinic or the American Cancer Society for more information.


(Photo: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

Written by Britt Middleton


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