Liver cancer usually occurs in persons in the older age group, above 40 to 50 years old and it is more common in Males. It can affect younger people who has contracted chronic hepatitis B or C from birth or those with certain congenital conditions.
The main risk factors for liver cancer are hepatitis B / hepatitis C infection, alcoholic liver disease and fatty liver (Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). Other rare causes include poisons (aflatoxin) from fungus growing in badly preserved food, congenital conditions (alpha-1 anti-trypsin deficiency), and any cause of liver scarring or cirrhosis.
The risk of getting liver cancer of a person with hepatitis B or C is about 100 times more than one without hepatitis B or C. The pattern of liver cancer worldwide follows closely with the pattern of hepatitis B and C infections.
Hepatitis B can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy. In the adults, hepatitis B and C can be transmitted by contact with infected body fluids, for example saliva, blood, sperm and other secretions. Blood transfusion is no longer a risk factor because of adequate screening methods in Singapore.
Alcohol is the main cause of liver cancer in the Western population and increasingly in Singapore. The liver is damaged by repeated and excessive alcohol abuse leading to liver hardening (cirrhosis) and liver cancer.
Fatty liver (Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease) is also increasingly common in Singapore, it associated with obesity, diabetes and hypertension.