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Why is the impact of Liver Cancer important to Albertans?

Liver cancer is the 19th most common cancer in Alberta.1
About 220 adults were diagnosed in 2012.2

  • Liver cancer is much more common in men than in women. In fact, about 3 out of 4 people who develop liver cancer are men.
  • The risk of men getting liver cancer begins to rise at age 35 and peaks between 55 and 65. The risk for women doesn’t rise until about age 50 and peaks between 60 and 65.
  • People with hepatitis B are 20 times more likely to develop liver cancer compared with people who don’t have hepatitis B.3 People with hepatitis C are 23 times more likely to develop liver cancer.3
  • The hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses can be spread by:
    • sharing needles used for injecting drugs with an infected person
    • getting a tattoo or piercing with tools that weren’t sterilized
    • having sex with an infected person without using a condom
  • A mother who has hepatitis B can pass it to her baby during delivery.

What can I do?

Experts in Alberta agree that we can prevent about 56 out of 100 cases of liver cancer.2 Here’s how:

About 27% of new cancer cases are in people who have hepatitis B and about 16% are in people who have hepatitis C.3

To learn more about hepatitis B or hepatitis C, go to

Hepatitis B vaccination is offered to all students in Grade 5. The vaccine has a success rate of 95% if all 3 doses are given. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

All women who are pregnant should see a health care provider before the baby is born. Health care providers make sure all pregnant women get tested for hepatitis B. If a woman has the virus, her baby can get shots to help prevent the infection from being passed along.

Other ways to avoid getting hepatitis B and hepatitis C include:

  • use a condom when you have sex
  • don't share needles
  • wear latex or plastic gloves if you have to touch blood
  • don't get a tattoo, or make sure that the needles used have been cleaned properly and are sterile
  • don't share toothbrushes or razors

Tobacco smoking is linked to about 26% of new cases.

Tobacco has cancer-causing toxins (called carcinogens) that damage liver cells. Over time, the damaged cells can turn into cancer. You can lower your risk for liver cancer when you quit using tobacco or cut down.

Drinking alcohol is linked to about 4% of new cases. When it comes to preventing cancer, there is no safe amount of alcohol. For people who choose to drink alcohol, the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research recommend4 that men have no more than 2 drinks a day and women no more than 1 drink a day.

More information on liver cancer symptoms, diagnosis and treatment at MyHealth Alberta.

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