Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Liver Cancer

The cause of liver cancer is unknown, but certain factors may increase your risk of developing liver cancer. Risk factors include:

  • Hepatitis B or C
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Diabetes (when combined with other risk factors)
  • Obesity
  • Certain chemical exposures
  • Other diseases, including:
    •  Hereditary hemochromatosis
    •  Tyrosinemia
    •  Alpha-1 antitrypsin
    •  Porphyria cutanea tarda
    •  Wilson disease
    •  Glycogen storage diseases


Cancerous tumors in the liver can originate there or metastasize (spread) from other cancer sites in the body. Diagnostic tests to detect liver cancer may include:

  • Liver function test (blood panel)
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan or MRI to determine the extent of your disease
  • Hepatic arteriography (an X-ray of the liver with contrast dye)
  • Liver biopsy (the removal of a small tissue sample with a needle or during surgery)

Your physician may assess the stage of your cancer using the following methods: