Health Encyclopedia


Cancer Care

How Can I Prevent Liver Cancer?

How Can I Prevent Liver Cancer?

Since it's not always clear what causes liver cancer, doctors do not always know how to prevent liver cancer. Even so, you should still avoid known risk factors as much as possible. Below are some ways to avoid risk factors that have been linked to liver cancer:

  • Avoid cirrhosis by seeking treatment before cirrhosis develops. Make lifestyle changes such as losing weight, not drinking any alcohol, quitting smoking, and taking vitamin D supplements. taking statins has been shown to decrease the risk of developing liver cancer.

  • Avoid activities that increase the risk of exposure to the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). These activities include using intravenous drugs, having many sex partners, and handling human blood or fluids without protection. Also, be sure to ask your doctor if you should get the hepatitis B vaccine. If you are at risk for HBV or HCV infection, ask your doctor about getting tested. For people who are infected, drugs are available that can keep the infections in check or even cure them in some people. This may lower your risk of liver cancer. 

  • Avoid drinking a lot of alcohol to reduce your risk of cirrhosis, a disease of the liver that increases the risk of liver cancer.

  • Avoid any raw food that may contain the fungus Aspergillus flavus, which releases toxins that can lead to liver cancer. 

Can I get checked for liver cancer before I have symptoms?

Surveillance tests check for problems before symptoms develop.  There are no routine screening methods used to find liver cancer in people without known risk factors. If you do have risk factors for liver cancer, such as a history of heavy alcohol use, cirrhosis, or HBV or HCV infection, you should talk with a doctor about undergoing screening tests. 

People who have cirrhosis of the liver should be closely monitored for liver cancer. This may include repeated surveillance blood tests for alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). Ultrasound exams of the liver, and then MRI or CT, are used to diagnose liver cancer.

AFP is a protein in the blood that typically decreases after birth. Increased levels of AFP have been linked to certain liver diseases, including liver cancers. Keep in mind, though, that not all types of liver cancer cause an elevation in AFP. Also, in some instances, AFP levels do not increase until the liver cancer has already spread to other sites in the body. For these reasons, this test is not always a good one for predicting liver cancer at a stage when it can still be treated easily.

Ultrasound imaging of the liver that is done on a regular basis may also be used by doctors to try to find liver cancer before it causes symptoms. An ultrasound machine uses sound waves to create pictures of the internal organs, including the liver. These pictures can help doctors find tumors in the liver that they may not have otherwise known were there. Doctors should perform liver ultrasounds every 6 months for surveillance for liver cancer in people that are at risk for the disease. However, ultrasound of the liver is not a good tool in obese people. 

Related Items
Content Type 156
  Liver Biopsy Podcast
Content Type 167
  Alkaline Phosphatase
  Alpha-Fetoprotein Tumor Marker (Blood)
Drug Reference
Cancer Source
  What Is Liver Cancer?
  Statistics About Liver Cancer
  Am I At Risk for Liver Cancer?
  What Are the Symptoms of Liver Cancer?
  Tests That Help Evaluate Liver Cancer
  Understanding the Grade and Stage of Liver Cancer
  What to Know About Surgery and Other Procedures for Liver Cancer
  What to Know About Radiation for Liver Cancer
  What to Know About Chemotherapy and Targeted Therapy for Liver Cancer
  Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment for Liver Cancer
  How Does My Doctor Know I Have Liver Cancer?
  Can I Survive Liver Cancer? What Is My Prognosis?
  I’ve Just Been Told I Have Liver Cancer
  Types and Goals of Treatment for Liver Cancer
Cancer FAQs
  Frequently Asked Questions About Liver Cancer
Daily News Feed
  New Drug Combo Helps Hard-to-Treat Hepatitis C
  Cancer Drug Nexavar Tied to Pancreas Damage in 2 Patients
  Study: Coffee Might Lower Risk of Liver Cancer
  Kids' Liver Transplant Success Varies by Race, Research Shows
  New Hepatitis C Drug Approved by FDA
  Most With Hepatitis C May Soon Find Hope in New Treatments
  Nearly 3 Million Americans Living With Hepatitis C
  Targeted Radiation Might Help Fight Advanced Breast Cancer: Study
  Distance From VA Liver Transplant Center May Affect Vets' Survival
  Study Links Coffee to Lower Liver Cancer Risk
  Study Finds Steroids May Not Be Helpful After Infant Liver Surgery
  Alcohol Fuels Liver Disease in Those With HIV and Hepatitis C
  Screening May Help Boost Liver Cancer Survival Rates
  Task Force Recommends Hep B Screening for High-Risk People
  Liver Cancer Drug Fails to Live Up to Early Promise
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Liver Tumors
Test and Procedures
  Liver Biopsy