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Liver Cancer Causes

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Liver cancer causes vary from alcoholism to viral infections of Hepatitis B or C. Liver cancer causes tumors that invade the liver surface. Liver is one of the most important organs of the human body and damage due to liver cancer can be catastrophic. There are two main types of liver cancers viz. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and Cholangiocarcinoma.

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is found most frequently. Hepatocellular carcinoma is also called as malignant hepatoma. The causes of HCC are identified as below,

Viral infections: Repeated infection by Hepatitis B and C virus is the chief culprit that causes HCC. The body's immune response system tries to kill the infected liver cells. It also kills the normal liver cells. This leads to a repetitive process of repair and regeneration. It causes damage to the normal repair cycle or carcinogenesis and cirrhosis.

Also changes in the normal cell cycle lead to apoptosis, which is a process of cell growth and decay. Cells start replicating at higher rate leading to tumors of the liver. Also hepatitis B viruses alter the genomes in the liver cells causing a normal liver to develop hepatocellular carcinoma. Note that hepatitis A viruse is not related with hepatocellular carcinoma as it does not produce chronic effects.

Alcoholism: Alcohol contains many carcinogens. These cause huge damage to the liver tissues impeding its normal functionality. Alcohol increases toxicity, It causes acidic reactions and produces carbolic acids in the liver. It causes higher rate of oxidation and dehydration. Ethanol in alcohol triggers cirrhosis. Cirrhosis weakens the liver structures and the cells. It can damage them permanently which in turn causes HCC. Heavy drinking for very long periods is thus associated with liver cancer.

Diseases: Many chronic diseases such as digestive disorders or gastro intestinal infections can also cause liver cancer. Some findings say that diabetes mellitus type 2 can increase the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. This might be due to imbalances in insulin production and increased strain and wear and tear of the liver. Research is still on to see if diabetes can cause liver cancer. Obesity too has been identified as a risk factor. Obese people tend to suffer from digestive disorders and strain on the liver. Thus, obese people have a risk of developing liver damage and hence liver cancer. There is a probability that Wilson's disease or non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL) may increase risk of liver cancer.

Other carcinogens: Aflatoxin found in certain fungi (Aspergillus) is highly toxic and is known to cause severe liver damage which leads to carcinogenesis. Hepatocellular adenomas (non malignant or benign) may turn in to hepatocellular carcinoma, especially in people who take anabolic steroids.

Hepatocellular carcinoma may also be caused in children with infantile cholestasis, biliary atresia and glycogen-storage related diseases or other cirrhotic liver diseases

To sum up Hepatocellular carcinoma may be caused by

  • Alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver
  • Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
  • Aflatoxin and other carcinogens

Cholangiocarcinoma: Cholangiocarcinoma of the liver is second most commonly found liver cancer. It is cancer related to the bile ducts. It is a form of glandular cancer.

The causes of cholangiocarcinoma have being identified as follows,

Ulcerative colitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis: Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is severe inflammatory disease. It said to be caused by immune response of the body. Ulcerative colitis on the other hand is caused by environmental factors, genetic factors and chronic infections of the stomach.

Parasitic liver diseases: Opisthorchis viverrin and Clonorchis sinensis are known to cause cholangiocarcinoma in some Asian countries like Japan. Viral hepatitis such as hepatitis B and C and HIV infections also are also known to increase the risk of cholangiocarcinoma.

Other causes of Cholangiocarcinoma: Caroli's syndrome, Biliary papillomatosis Lynch syndrome are known risk factors. Intrahepatic stone formations also greatly increase the chances of liver cancer. Carcinogens like Thorotrast or thorium dioxide were found to increase the risk of Cholangiocarcinoma and therefore banned in certain countries

Liver cancer causes may also include exposure to radiation, exposure to carcinogens, like cobalt and lead, smoking and physical inactivity. Liver cancer causes thus describe how and when a person may develop liver cancer. Research into causes has made it possible to develop diagnostic tests and treatments of liver cancer. Remember liver cancer signs and symptoms include sweating, jaundice, weight loss and abdominal pain. Do go in for a checkup if you see such symptoms.

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