Liver Cancer

  • Liver cancer, also called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is when tumor cells begin to grow out of control taking over the liver’s functional, healthy cells. There are several kinds of liver cancer which are broken down into general categories: primary liver cancer which starts in the liver itself, and includes hepatocellular carcinoma and bile duct cancer; secondary liver cancer which spread to the liver from somewhere else in the body; and benign liver tumors which may interfere with the liver’s function but do not grow into nearby tissues or spread.
  • The primary causes of liver cancer include hepatitis B virus (HBV) (the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world), hepatitis C virus (HCV), alcohol consumption, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and other causes of liver disease that result in cirrhosis.
  • Risk factors for liver cancer include: cirrhosis from any cause (including hepatitis C, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcohol induced fatty liver disease, hemochromatosis, primary biliary cirrhosis and others); chronic hepatitis B; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with liver fibrosis (scarring); and diabetes, sometimes even in the absence of cirrhosis. In the presence of these chronic liver diseases certain factors are more commonly associated with risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, including male gender; certain racial/ethnic groups (see below); genetic history (hereditary hemochromatosis); HIV or AIDS; heavy alcohol and tobacco use; obesity; and type 2 diabetes. Rare risk factors for liver cancer include: exposure to certain chemicals and substances (e.g., aflatoxins, vinyl chloride and thorium dioxide (thorotrast)); steroid use.
  • Estimated new cases of liver/bile duct cancer in 2021: 42,230 (2.2% of all new cancer cases).
    Estimated liver/bile duct cancer deaths in 2021: 30,230 (5.0% of all cancer deaths that year).
  • Liver cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. among all races, ethnicities, and genders. It claims the lives of approximately 30,000 adults in the U.S. each year.
  • Liver cancer is the most rapidly growing cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Liver cancer death rates have more than doubled since 1980.
  • Liver cancer is a major cause of cancer death among all U.S. males and in Mexican American men.
  • Liver cancer incidence in the United States is higher among Black/African American people compared to Whites.
  • Between 2000 and 2016, liver cancer death rates jumped 43% in the U.S., despite a steady decline of the overall cancer death rates during the same period. The higher rate was also accompanied by an increase in liver cancer incidence.
  • 2018 rates of new liver/bile duct cancers by race/ethnicity, per 100,000: Hispanic/Latino (13.3); Asian/Pacific Islander (10.9); American Indian/Alaska Native (9.9); Black/African American (9.8); White (7.8). By gender: male (12.6); female (4.6).
  • In 2018, Hispanic/Latino men had highest incidence rates of liver cancer (19.4 per 100,000), followed by Asian/Pacific Islander (16.8); Black/African American (15.8); American Indian/Alaska Native (13.4); and White males (11.7). Among women, Hispanic/Latino women had the highest incidence rates of liver cancer (8.1 per 100,000 women), followed by Asian/Pacific Islander (6.1); American Indian/Alaska Native (6.9); Black/African American (5.2), and White women (4.3).
  • A 2017 study found the following racial/ethnic disparity in liver cancer death rates: 5.5 per 100,000 in non-Hispanic whites vs. 11.9 per 100,000 in American Indians/Alaska Natives.
  • Chronic viral hepatitis is the leading “pathway” to liver cancer in the U.S. and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is rapidly increasing as a common cause of liver cancer in the U.S. and worldwide.

Last updated on September 12th, 2023 at 02:18 pm

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