Hep B Blog

Want to Avoid Liver Cancer? There Are Things You Can Control

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We who live with hepatitis B know that avoiding alcohol and cigarettes go a long way toward reducing our risk of liver cancer. But there are new threats emerging. Researchers are finding that obesity, diabetes and developing fatty liver from unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle can be just as dangerous to our livers.

In a recent study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, researchers found:

  • If you have chronic hepatitis and are obese with a fatty liver, your liver cancer risk increases 1.5 to 4.5 times
  • And, if you have hepatitis B and diabetes, your liver cancer risk climbs two- to three-fold.

This is a sobering realization that our lifestyle and our weight matter a lot when it comes to how long we will live. We may like to think we won’t develop liver cancer because our viral load is low or our liver tests don’t show any damage, but sitting all day and over-eating are just as dangerous.

While the majority of people who develop liver cancer have severe liver scarring (called cirrhosis) from viral hepatitis, studies are finding a growing number of liver cancers in people who don’t have hepatitis B but do have fatty liver and diabetes. You add fatty liver or diabetes to hepatitis B, and our risk of liver cancer skyrockets.

While we may not be able to control our viral loads or hepatitis B infection, we can control our diet and how much we exercise.

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Studies consistently find that too much fat and sugar increase liver cancer significantly in people living with hepatitis B and C. People who eat lots of proteins and fats can develop fatty liver, which occurs when 10 percent of our livers are made up of fat from unhealthy diets.

“There is growing evidence that adherence to a healthy diet plays a role in delaying (liver cancer) development in at-risk populations,” researchers wrote in a recent article published in the September 2015 issue of the Journal of Hepatology.

Studies find increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and fiber decreases liver cancer risk A study in Italy found a 50 percent reduction in liver cancer in people with viral hepatitis who ate fruits, milk/yoghurt, white meats and eggs.

Drink more coffee

We know excessive alcohol increases the risk of liver cancer whether you have hepatitis or not, now researchers are discovering that coffee helps prevent it. Studies, covering a wide range of ethnic groups around the world, find drinking two or more cups of coffee a day protects us from liver cancer.

Exercise, now!

Exercise reduces obesity and diabetes, and consequently the risk of cancer in people with hepatitis B. In fact, some researchers suggest exercise may be a more important in preventing cancer than a healthy diet.

A large study in Taiwan and another study in the U.S. found reduced liver cancer in people who exercised and a 70 percent decline in liver cancer deaths in people who walked or exercised seven hours or more a week. Even exercising three hours a week helps reduce inflammation and liver cancer deaths in people who had already developed cancer.

Many of us feel wildly out of control when we live with chronic hepatitis B. It’s an infection that we cannot feel or cure, which makes can make us feel powerless and anxious. But we can control what we eat and how much we exercise. The choice is ours.

Comments on this blog are closed. If you have questions about hepatitis B or this blog post, please email info@hepb.org or call 215-489-4900.

10 thoughts on “Want to Avoid Liver Cancer? There Are Things You Can Control”

  1. What are the foods which increases on our proteins and which are those advisable because fats can’t easily be avoided

    1. Hello: When we have hepatitis B, we should eat a healthy diet that includes protein AND fruits and vegetables. A low-fat diet is good because the last thing we want is to become overweight and have extra fat in our liver (called fatty liver disease). The combination of a hepatitis B infection and fatty liver disease accelerates liver disease and increases liver damage. If you think you need treatment, talk to your doctor and review your viral load (HBV DNA) and whether infection is causing any liver damage, which is indicated by liver enzyme test (ALT or SGPT). You can consult the World Health Organizations hepatitis B guidelines that explain when treatment is needed at http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/hepatitis/hepatitis-b-guidelines/en/ Good luck.

    1. Hello: I’m not sure what a hepa card is. If you test positive for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), then it means you are infected with the hepatitis B virus and should have your viral load measured to find out more about your health and what stage your infection is at. Thank you.

  2. My hbv dna viral load was undetectable continuously for 4 years with normal lft levels.iam a pregnant now.but now when i retested hbv dna viral load is 23 iu/ml with normal lft levels.,ofcourse it is of low viral load.Does hbv viral load elevates during pregnancy or what else reason for elevated levels

    1. Hello: Pregnancy clearly is a stress to your body and its immune system, so your viral load may fluctuate, and there are some studies that show after delivery your viral load or ALTs may rise as your body’s hormones re-adjust after your delivery. So keep getting monitored, it sounds like you’re doing everything right! Good luck.

  3. What are the food habits to maintain good liver health who are hbsag+ve chronically.

    Thanks for ur prompt response for the questions asked.

    1. Hello: Medical experts recommend that you eat healthy, low-fat foods. You don’t need a special diet, just a healthy one. It is also important to avoid alcohol and cigarettes, as they stress both your liver and immune system. Make sure you are monitored regularly. It sounds like you’re taking good care of yourself, good luck.

  4. I could not agree with this more. I live in SEA. Asian food, oh well u can imagine the coconut milk based food, oily stir-fried everything even the veges! We love to drink condensed milk Drinks After Meals. Plain water & fresh Fruits/veges are seems like on special occassions only.

    I am F3 on FibroScan, normal LFTs, low HBV DNA. Experience mild symptoms; joint/back right pain & neuropathy on & off. Sometime when i control all fatty food, increase fruit & vege intake, symptoms lessen. Coz of the pain, im no longer doing gym routine, just light exercise only. Since dignosed 2015, i gain 5kg frm 59kg. Im a clinically thin guy.

    Not sure all caused by CHB coz i also hv a mild low platelet, hypothyroid & sciolosis 10° right.

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