The Changing Face of Liver Cancer


Hepatitis C infections get a lot of bad press when it comes to liver cancer. While it is true that hepatitis C is a significant risk factor for liver cancer, there is another risk factor that is even more risky: metabolic disorders. In fact, new research just found that metabolic disorders are the number one contributor to liver cancer.

Metabolic disorders include inherited conditions such as hemochromatosis, tyrosinemia, alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency, porphyria cutanea tarda, glycogen storage diseases, and Wilson disease, as well as acquired conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Although many other cancers have seen declines in incidence in recent years, liver cancer continues to be on the rise, an issue I discussed just last week in Get Screened, Get Treated, Save Lives. Liver cancer mortality rates are rising faster than deaths from any other cancer.

Now, research based on more than 10,000 liver cancer patients (with hepatocellular carcinoma) who were compared to cancer-free controls reveals nearly one in every three liver cancer cases can be traced back to metabolic disorders. Meanwhile, hepatitis C accounts for one in five cases. The balance of liver cancers were attributed to: alcohol use (13.4%), smoking (9%), hepatitis B (4.3%), and genetic disorders (1.5%).

This discovery – of the growing risk of metabolic disorders – is sobering. However, it does not change the fact that anyone at risk for hepatitis C infection should get screened and treated for the infection. This remains an important way to lessen the risk of liver cancer.

Stephen C. Vogt, Pharm.D.
President and CEO
BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy


What do you think?

I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.


Makarova-Rusher OV, Altekruse SF, McNeel TS, et al. Population attributable fractions of risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma in the United States [published online ahead of print March 21, 2016]. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.29971.

Leave a Reply