Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) tends to occur in livers damaged by birth defects, alcohol abuse, or chronic infection with diseases such as hepatitis B and C, hemochromatosis (a hereditary disease associated with too much iron in the liver), and cirrhosis. More than half of all people diagnosed with primary liver cancer have cirrhosis -- a scarring condition of the liver commonly caused by alcohol abuse. Hepatitis B and C and hemochromatosis can cause permanent damage and liver failure. Liver cancer may also be linked to obesity and fatty liver disease.
Various cancer-causing substances are associated with primary liver cancer, including certain herbicides and chemicals such as vinyl chloride and arsenic. Smoking, especially if you abuse alcohol as well, also increases risk. Aflatoxins, cancer-causing substances made by a type of plant mold, have also been implicated. Aflatoxins can contaminate wheat, peanuts, rice, corn, and soybeans. These are rare problems in most developed countries like the U.S. Other causes include the hormones androgen and estrogen and a dye formerly used in medical tests called thorotrast.
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