Environmental Factors

The environment you live in and the chemicals you are exposed to can also increase your risk for liver cancer.

  • Exposure to aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, substances that are created by fungus that grows on certain foods, most commonly corn, peanuts, and other grains and nuts. The United States has established safety practices to reduce the growth of aflatoxins, but they are common in developing and other countries.

  • Exposure to arsenic. Drinking water contaminated with arsenic, a semi-metal element, increases the risk of developing liver cancer, among other health problems. Arsenic can contaminate water by leaching through rock, where it can occur naturally, or from industrial and agricultural practices. The United States has set strict standards for the amount of arsenic acceptable in drinking water, though it is still a problem in some parts of the country. It is a larger issue outside the US.

  • Exposure to certain chemicals. Other chemicals can increase the risk of liver cancer. Vinyl chloride, a man-made chemical gas used in the production of certain plastics, and thorium dioxide (Thorotrast), a chemical compound used in certain manufacturing processes, are two examples. Both of these pose much less risk today in the US today due to increased safety standards.

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