How often do you think about the well-being of your liver? If you are like most people, not that often. Your liver is one of the largest (2% of your body weight) and among the most critical organs in your body. The liver alone is responsible for more than 300 functions, even aiding other organs to function properly. The liver’s roles mainly include supporting your metabolism, detoxification, immunity, vitamin storage and more. By this point, it is apparent how critical the liver is to the human body. The truth of the matter is that certain everyday habits could potentially increase your risk of liver-related illnesses. Listed below are some good habits to prevent increasing your chances of developing liver cancer and simultaneously keep your liver healthy:
1. Maintain a balanced diet.
According to the American Cancer Society, people with obesity have higher chances of being diagnosed with liver cancer as they are prone to conditions such as diabetes and fatty liver disease. Maintaining a balanced diet can improve your overall liver health. Foods rich in antioxidants, like vegetables and fruits, armour your liver against the damage caused by inflammation and free radicals.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is among the main risk factors for developing liver cancer. In the United States alone, liver cancer is ranked as the 5th most common cause of death for men and the 7th most common for women in terms of cancer variations. To prevent the chances of NAFLD, consider switching to a diet containing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, as they help maintain a healthy digestive system.
Additionally, overconsumption of specific fat types, notably saturated and trans fats, can heighten the risk of liver cancer. A well-rounded diet promotes the intake of beneficial fats in foods like nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
2. Reduce alcohol intake.
Alcohol consumption is a widespread social activity, but it’s essential to be aware of its potential impact on health, especially regarding cancer risk. When you consume alcohol, your body undergoes a transformation, converting the beverage into a substance known as acetaldehyde.
It is a seemingly harmless compound; however, it can potentially damage DNA, potentially paving the way for cancer development. But the perils of alcohol don’t stop there. Alcohol also induces oxidative stress within our cells, leading to cellular damage, further elevating the risk of cancer. The liver, an organ critical to our well-being, isn’t spared either.
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause inflammation and scarring, known as cirrhosis, which is closely linked to the development of liver cancer. Moreover, alcohol can interfere with our body’s natural defence mechanisms, making it easier for harmful substances, like those found in tobacco, to infiltrate our system, compounding the health risks. For those concerned about breast cancer, it’s worth noting that alcohol consumption can raise oestrogen levels, potentially increasing the risk.
3. Always practise safe sex.
By practising safe sex, especially when using a barrier method like condoms, you can indirectly reduce your risk of developing liver cancer. Certain Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are linked to an increasing chance of liver cancer.
In Western countries, hepatitis C is the more common cause of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC, a type of liver cancer), while in Asia, hepatitis B is the more common cause of HCC. People with this virus who are heavy drinkers (more than 6 alcoholic beverages a day) significantly increase their chances of developing HCC.
4. Try not to be too dependent on medication.
The liver plays a crucial role in breaking down various medications, including over-the-counter drugs and those prescribed by healthcare providers. However, it’s essential to recognise that this process can vary in speed among individuals, potentially making some more susceptible to liver damage.
Certain medications can potentially induce hepatitis, even when the liver’s breakdown system is functioning normally. Additionally, consuming large doses of many drugs can harm a healthy liver.
A wide range of medications can trigger drug-induced hepatitis, but a common culprit is acetaminophen, commonly found in painkillers and fever reducers. When taken in doses exceeding the recommended guidelines, acetaminophen can lead to liver injury. Furthermore, individuals who engage in excessive alcohol consumption are at increased risk of experiencing this problem.
It’s crucial to exercise caution and adhere to recommended dosages when taking medications, especially those containing acetaminophen. Additionally, if you regularly consume alcohol, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks associated with combining alcohol and certain medications.
5. Go for regular health screening.
The phrase “prevention is better than cure” may be somewhat overused, but few words ring true regarding your health. Regular health screening should be prioritised in your schedule, especially if you fit in the high-risk category of developing liver cancer. Listed below are criteria and health signs that fall under the high-risk category:
- Heavy alcohol users with cirrhosis
- Hepatitis B and C carriers
- Patients with untreated Hereditary Hemochromatosis
Consulting with a healthcare professional is the best way to assess your risk levels and develop a personalised plan for screenings, prevention, and cancer treatments.
If you are seeking a reputable cancer screening and treatment centre, you may want to consider contacting The Cancer Centre (TCC) for assistance. They can provide expert guidance and services to address your specific needs.