Liver cancer is preventable if the primary risk factors such as chronic hepatitis B and C infections can be eliminated. The number of cases of liver cancer is expected to grow dramatically over the next 20 years if prevention strategies are not promoted.
The Hepatitis B Vaccine: World’s First Anti-Cancer Vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine was named the first “anti-cancer” vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because it prevents chronic hepatitis B infections, thereby preventing liver cancer caused by the hepatitis B virus. In the United States, the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants, children and adults ages 19-59, as well as adults ages 60+ at high risk for infection. In many countries, including the United States, vaccinating newborns with the hepatitis B vaccine at birth has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of new cases of liver cancer caused by hepatitis B.
Cirrhosis and Liver Cancer
At least 80% of people diagnosed with liver cancer also have cirrhosis. Although chronic hepatitis B infections can lead to liver cancer without cirrhosis, in general preventing cirrhosis can reduce the risk of liver cancer. The most important way to prevent cirrhosis is to prevent chronic infections of hepatitis B and C in the first place. In addition, cirrhosis can be prevented by decreasing alcohol use, stopping smoking, and avoiding exposure to cancer-causing industrial chemicals or aflatoxins in poorly stored food and grains.