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Risk Factors

What Is a Risk Factor?

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. The risk factors do not always directly cause cancer. Some people may have several risk factors but never develop cancer, while other people who have no known risk factors do develop cancer. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance of developing cancer.

Knowing your risk factors and discussing them with your health care provider may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices to reduce your risk of cancer.

What Are the Risk Factors for Liver Cancer?

The most common risk factor for liver cancer globally is chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus. Individuals chronically infected with hepatitis B have a 25% to 40% lifetime risk of developing liver cancer.

In the United States, chronic infection with the hepatitis C virus is the leading cause of liver cancer because of the greater number of Americans infected with this virus. It is chronic hepatitis B infections, however, that cause at least 54% of all liver cancer worldwide.

Additional risk factors for developing liver cancer include cirrhosis, excessive alcohol use and smoking, as well as obesity and diabetes. Some inherited diseases that cause liver damage also increase the risk of liver cancer. Race, ethnicity and a family history of liver cancer are known risk factors as well. Liver cancer is more common among men than women regardless of race or ethnicity.


Major Risk Factors Other Risk Factors
Chronic viral hepatitis Race/ethnicity, gender, age
Family history of liver cancer Smoking
Cirrhosis Inherited metabolic diseases
Heavy alcohol use  
Aflatoxins and environmental toxins  
Diabetes, obesity, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease