Hepatitis B virus and Hepatitis C virus are the most significant risk. These are viruses that can spread from person to person through the sharing of contaminated needles (such as in drug use) and through unprotected sex. Hence some liver cancer may be prevented by not sharing needles and by engaging in safer sex practices (such as consistent use of condoms).
Blood transfusions were once a major source of hepatitis infection as well. But because blood banks now test donated blood to look for signs of these viruses, the risk of getting a hepatitis infection from a blood transfusion is extremely low.
Other risk factors
You could be at risk of having hepatitis B if you have sex with someone who is infected or if you have multiple sex partners or have a sexually transmitted disease. A baby born to a mother that is infected with hepatitis B virus is also at risk for being infected.
You can lower your risk for developing liver cancer by following healthy lifestyle measures, such as regular exercise, controlling your weight, and eating a healthy diet with limited amounts of alcohol. It’s also important to avoid infection with the hepatitis B and C virus infection. If the infection isn’t treated, hepatitis B infection can lead to cirrhosis (scarring), liver failure, and cancer.
Screening for hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection
Consider undergoing a screening test if you have chronic hepatitis B, because you might be a candidate for antiviral therapy, which can slow down the progression of liver disease and decrease (although not eliminate) the risk of liver cancer. While there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, the right treatment can eliminate the virus in most people. If you have chronic hepatitis, you should visit your doctor for regular surveillance with imaging tests, such as ultrasound, CT, or MRI.
Limit alcohol and tobacco use
Drinking alcohol can lead to cirrhosis, which in turn, can lead to liver cancer. At the same time, not drinking alcohol or drinking in moderation could help prevent liver cancer. Since smoking also increases the risk of liver cancer, not smoking will also prevent some of these cancers. If you smoke, quitting will help lower your risk of developing this cancer, as well as many other cancers and life-threatening diseases.
Maintain healthy weight
Avoiding obesity might be another way to help protect against liver cancer. People who are obese are more likely to have fatty liver disease and diabetes, both of which have been linked to liver cancer.
Treat diseases that increase liver cancer risk
Certain inherited diseases can cause cirrhosis of the liver, so finding and treating these diseases early in life could lower this risk.
For instance, all children in families with hemochromatosis (high iron in blood) should be screened for the disease and treated if they have it. Treatment regularly removes small amounts of blood to lower the amount of excess iron in the body.
Common causes of primary liver cancer includes scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) caused by too much alcohol use or infection with hepatitis B or C infection are largely to blame. You can get infected with the hepatitis B or C virus through unprotected sex, sharing unsterilized needles and a blood transfusion.
Because primary liver cancer caused by viral hepatitis tends to develop slowly over the course of two to three decades, there are steps you can take to get screened for the infection and prevent it from becoming advanced.