During the month of October, liver cancer tends to get overshadowed by breast cancer awareness. Nevertheless, there are over 35,600 people that will be diagnosed with this type of cancer in 2015 and the numbers are steadily increasing. Despite this increase, it is estimated that nearly one-third of liver cancers in the US can be prevented by being active and maintaining a healthy weight. Diet and alcohol are strong risk factors for primary liver cancer, so understanding how to decrease the risk of liver cancer is the key [i][ii].
Earlier this year, we provided a summary of the AICR’s Continuous Update Project in Decrease Liver Cancer Risk with a Healthy Lifestyle. Research presents strong evidence linking three factors as a cause of liver cancer: being overweight or obese, consuming 3 or more alcoholic beverages a day, and consuming foods contaminated with aflatoxins. There is also a strong indication that coffee consumption is linked with decreased risk of liver cancer due to the many antioxidants and phytochemicals found in coffee [iii].
To help prevent liver cancer, it is important that you
- Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol can destroy or damage liver cells. One of the liver’s jobs is to break down alcohol and remove it from the body. If there is too much alcohol for the liver to process, liver cells can be damaged. Damaged liver cells can lead to liver cancer [iv].
- Maintain a healthy weight and diet. Excess body fat is linked to liver cancer. Fortunately, dietary changes can help to prevent liver cancer. Moderate coffee intake, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, halibut, etc.) and physical activity are protective against liver cancer.
- Avoid aflatoxins. A fungus found on crops, such as corn, peanuts, tree nuts, and cottonseed, can produce aflatoxins. People can consume aflatoxins by the contaminated plant products, like peanuts or corn, or by consuming meat or dairy products from animals that ate contaminated feed. To reduce your exposure to aflatoxins, buy major brands of nuts and nut butters and discard nuts that look moldy, discolored, or shriveled. Avoid “make your own” peanut butter machines at the grocery store because the nuts in the machines may be old or moldy [v].
To learn more about liver cancer, visit the American Institute for Cancer Research or American Cancer Society.