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Seven Ways to Reduce Liver Cancer Risk

Making a collection of lifestyle changes may enable those with liver disease to singlehandedly prevent their illness from progressing to liver cancer.

Millions of Americans are living with chronic liver disease. While a cure is beyond the reach of many affected individuals, most can still live a normal life by preventing their disease from advancing. Regardless of the cause, there is a goal uniting everyone affected with chronic liver disease – to prevent the illness from progressing. If liver disease progresses to its most severe stage, then the implications are typically serious. One of the possible outcomes of end-stage liver disease, liver cancer presents a major concern. Experts advise seven lifestyle approaches to reduce the likelihood of developing liver cancer.

With chronic liver disease, damage to liver cells can include altering the genes inside cells in a way that causes them to become cancerous. As the fifth most common cancer in the world, liver cancer is a very aggressive disease. While researchers are continuously searching and finding innovative ways to understand and fight liver cancer, only a small percentage of people diagnosed survive more than one year. Those odds increase for people whose tumors have been successfully removed.

Liver cancer can begin in the liver or it can begin elsewhere and spread to the liver. Primary liver cancer is cancer that originates from liver cells. Secondary liver cancer is cancer that originates from another organ and spreads to the liver. Primary liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma, is commonly diagnosed among patients with cirrhosis. Describing a liver that is permanently scarred, hardened and shrunken, cirrhosis is a common result of advanced liver disease.

While eliminating the cause of chronic liver disease is the most obvious route towards preventing liver cancer, that option does not always exist. However, there is hope, as the following seven approaches can reduce your risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma.

1.    Treat Alcohol As Your Enemy – While some conservative sources suggest reducing alcohol consumption with liver disease, there is enough evidence to support the effort to avoid it at all costs. Drinking alcoholic beverages will put anyone already managing liver disease on a path towards cirrhosis and/or liver cancer.

2.    Exercise – Besides preventing weight gain, research shows that physical activity keeps hormone levels balanced, which is important because high levels of certain hormones increases cancer risk. Most experts suggest physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes each day.

3.    Skip Processed Meat – When meat is preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives, cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) are formed that damage cells in the body. Research demonstrates a clear association between consuming processed meats and cancer risk.

4.    Hepatitis B Immunization – If not already vaccinated, get immunized against Hepatitis B. Infection with Hepatitis B increases your risk of developing cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

5.    Quit Smoking – Although quitting smoking has been described as harder than quitting heroin, it is a necessity to prevent the development of cancer. Cigarette smoke contains many known carcinogens. The tars in smoke contain polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), materials that bind with cellular DNA causing damage and initiating cellular abnormality, otherwise known as cancer.

6.    Eat Fruit and Veggies – The evidence demonstrating that fruit and vegetables are nature’s prevention for cancer is abundant. The American Cancer Society recommends eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day to help prevent cancer.

7.    Supplement With Milk Thistle – Milk thistle is an herb used for liver health that also demonstrates the ability to deter liver cancer. Likely because milk thistle’s active ingredient fortifies liver cell walls, this herb has been recognized by a research team from California to exhibit anti-cancer effects.

Several of the lifestyle changes above could be the largest obstacle ever faced, while others seem to be a common extension of the quest for better health. However, every one of these seven approaches for preventing cancer should be acknowledged – because every single step has demonstrated the capacity for preventing liver disease progression., What is Liver Cancer?, Retrieved July 31, 2010, A.P. John Institute for Cancer Research, 2010., Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk: Questions and Answers, Retrieved July 29, 2010, National Cancer Institute, 2010., Fruit and Vegetables: Do You Get Enough?, Retrieved July 31, 2010, American Cancer Society, 2010., 7 Ways to Slash Cancer Risk, Melanie Haiken, Retrieved July 29, 2010,, 2010., Reduce Your Risk of Liver Cancer, Joseph D. Tabora, MD, Retrieved July 29, 2010,, 2010., Get Off Your Butts: Smoking Cigarettes with Liver Disease, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved July 31, 2010, Natural Wellness, 2010., Can Milk Thistle Prevent Liver Cancer?, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved July 31, 2010, Natural Wellness, 2010.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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