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 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.