Encyclopedia Home / H / Hepatocellular carcinoma

Hepatocellular carcinoma

  • Definition

    Hepatocellular carcinoma is cancer of the liver.


    Alternative Names

    Primary liver cell carcinoma; Tumor - liver; Liver cancer; Cancer - liver


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Hepatocellular carcinoma accounts for most liver cancers. This type of cancer occurs more often in men than women. It is usually seen in people ages 50 - 60.

    The disease is more common in parts of Africa and Asia than in North or South America and Europe.

    Hepatocellular carcinoma is not the same as metastatic liver cancer, which starts in another organ (such as the breast or colon) and spreads to the liver.

    In most cases, the cause of liver cancer is usually scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Cirrhosis may be caused by:

    • Alcohol abuse (the most common cause in the United States)
    • Certain autoimmune diseases of the liver
    • Diseases that cause long-term inflammation of the liver
    • Hepatitis B or C virus infection
    • Too much iron in the body (hemochromatosis)

    Patients with hepatitis B or C are at risk for liver cancer, even if they do not have cirrhosis.