Different tests and scans may be used to diagnose primary liver cancer.
If you're struggling to find what you need, call our Support line on 0808 808 0000 (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)More ways to contact us
We do not know the exact cause of primary liver cancer (HCC). But certain things called risk factors can increase a person’s chance of developing it. Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will get cancer. And if you do not have any risk factors, this does not mean you won’t get cancer.
Risk factors for HCC include:
HCC is more common as people get older. Most people diagnosed are over 65.
HCC is more common in men than in women.
People who smoke tobacco have a much higher risk of HCC than non-smokers.
Long-term infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) can cause HCC.
People who have cirrhosis have a higher risk of getting HCC. Cirrhosis is scarring all over the liver. It damages the liver and stops it working properly.
The risk factors for cirrhosis include:
Drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time can cause cirrhosis. We have more information about alcohol and drinking guidelines.
This is when fat builds up in the liver and causes damage to the liver.
Long-term infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis.
This is an inherited condition that causes iron levels to build up in the body. When it is diagnosed and treated early, it does not usually cause problems.
This is when the body’s immune system, which normally fights infection, slowly destroys the small bile ducts in the liver.
People with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing HCC.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that occur together.
People with metabolic syndrome have a higher risk of developing HCC.
Having a close family member (father, mother, sister or brother) with primary liver cancer increases a person’s risk. Doctors are not sure why this is.
Anabolic steroids taken over a long time slightly increase the risk of HCC. These are mainly used by bodybuilders.
A poison called aflatoxin, found in mouldy peanuts and grains, is a major risk for HCC in parts of Africa and Asia.
Order or download our free booklet about primary liver cancer. It covers treatment and care including helpful organisations.
Worrying about cancer can have a big impact on your feelings. Read our advice to help you cope with your emotions.
If you're deciding which charity to support with your fundraising, talk to us. We want to be there for everyone affected by cancer, and we need your help.
What's happening near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you are.
We rely on a number of sources to gather evidence for our information. If you’d like further information on the sources we use, please feel free to contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
All our information is reviewed by cancer or other relevant professionals to ensure that it’s accurate and reflects the best evidence available. We thank all those people who have provided expert review for the information on this page.
Our information is also reviewed by people affected by cancer to ensure it is as relevant and accessible as possible. Thank you to all those people who reviewed what you're reading and have helped our information to develop.
You could help us too when you join our Cancer Voices Network – find out more at: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancervoices
Need to talk? Call us free* 0808 808 00 00 7 days a week, 8am-8pm
© Macmillan Cancer Support, registered charity in England and Wales (261017), Scotland (SC039907) and the Isle of Man (604). Also operating in Northern Ireland. A company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales company number 2400969. Isle of Man company number 4694F. Registered office: 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7UQ. VAT no: 668265007
We make every effort to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and up-to-date but it should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialist professional advice tailored to your situation. So far as is permitted by law, Macmillan does not accept liability in relation to the use of any information contained in this publication or third party information or websites included or referred to in it.