These lifestyle factors increase liver cancer risk

May 01, 2019 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Your liver is one of the hardest-working organs in your body.

Located on the upper right side of your body just beneath your diaphragm, your liver aids digestion, converts fats into energy, regulates your cholesterol levels and breaks down toxins like drugs and alcohol, among other things.

Amazingly, the liver can also regenerate itself! It grows back to its original size if there’s at least 25 percent of a healthy liver remaining.

It’s a real workhorse, and so vital to our overall bodily function. Unfortunately, the liver can fall victim to some diseases, including cancer.

While it isn’t the most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States, liver cancer has become the fastest-increasing cause of death in the U.S. The number of people diagnosed with liver cancer has tripled in the last 40 years.

Conditions and lifestyles that can cause liver disease are factors driving this increase, such as obesity, smoking and heavy alcohol use.

The causes of liver cancer aren’t all known, but a main risk factor appears to be chronic infection with hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Other risk factors include:

Often the symptoms of liver cancer aren’t apparent until the cancer is more advanced. The most common symptoms of liver cancer include:

  • Losing weight without trying
  • Appetite loss
  • Feeling very full after a small meal
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A feeling of fullness under the ribs on the right side (an enlarged liver)
  • A feeling of fullness under the ribs on the left side (an enlarged spleen)
  • Pain in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade
  • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Itching
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

That said, there is a lot you can do to keep your liver healthy. It comes down to the basics of healthy living: eat healthy food, exercise regularly. If you’re a smoker, stop. Avoid heavy alcohol use.

Cancer is a journey that no one expects to take. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, our cancer experts will partner with you every step of the way. Learn more about our cancer care.

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