What Is the Main Cause of Liver Cancer? 10 Risks and 3 Types

Which factors can increase the risk of liver cancer?

10 risk factors can increase your chance of getting liver cancer including:


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is more common in men than in women.


In the United States, races with the highest risk are presented in descending order

  • Asian-Americans
  • Pacific Islanders
  • Hispanics/Latinos
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives
  • African American
  • Whites


Cirrhosis causes scarring of the liver cells. People with cirrhosis are at an increased risk of liver cancer.

Chronic viral hepatitis

Chronic hepatitis infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common risk factor for liver cancer. These infections can cause cirrhosis of the liver. These viruses make liver cancer the most common cancer in many parts of the world.

In the United States, infection with HCV is more common, whereas, in Asia and other developing countries, HBV is more common.

Inherited metabolic disease

Certain hereditary conditions, such as inherited hemochromatosis, can lead to liver cancer. Hemochromatosis is a condition where the body absorbs excess iron from food. The extra iron settles in tissues throughout the body, including the liver. If the liver is overloaded with iron, it can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Heavy alcohol use

Heavy and harmful drinking is the primary cause of cirrhosis in the United States. Cirrhosis, in turn, increases the person’s risk of getting liver cancer.

Tobacco use

Smoking has been known to increase the risk of many cancers, including liver cancers. Smokers or passive smokers are known to be at higher risk of developing liver cancer.


Obesity is associated with fatty liver disease and cirrhosis, both of which contribute to liver cancer.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes accompanied by various other factors has been shown to increase the risk of liver cancer. Other factors include

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Chronic viral hepatitis
  • Obesity

Rare diseases

Diseases that increase the risk of liver disease include

  • Tyrosinemia
  • Alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Glycogen storage diseases
  • Wilson disease

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