Your liver is football-shaped, and sits on the right side of your abdomen, between your stomach and your diaphragm. Its primary physiological responsibility is to detoxify our bloodstream from the byproducts of the food we ingest, but it also helps metabolize medications and food, stores sugars, makes cholesterol and other important fats, proteins needed for blood clotting, and bile which is necessary for digestion.
The liver is the second largest organ in the body (next to the skin) and is also classified as a gland because it secretes bile.
Interestingly, the liver is capable of regenerating itself if parts of it are removed or become diseased and “live” partial liver transplants have been completed in several cases with success for both the donor and transplant recipient.
Facts about Liver Cancer
Liver cancer is one of the commonest forms of cancer in the world. Although liver cancer is relatively uncommon in the United States, diagnoses are increasing. So far in 2011 there have been over 26,000 new cases of liver cancer diagnosed in the U.S. and over 19,000 deaths.
For clarity purposes, liver cancer refers to cancer that starts in the liver, not cancer that spreads or metastasizes from other organs or places in the body.
Risk Factors for Liver Cancer
It isn’t always clear why cancer happens in some people in not in others. The only thing doctors and researchers have found out so far is that people with certain risk factors might be at greater risk for developing liver cancer. Such risk factors include:
• History of Hepatitis B or C – Worldwide, these conditions are the most common causes of liver cancer.
• Abuse of alcohol – Drinking more than two drinks of alcohol a day over the course of many years can increase the risk for cancers.
• Aflatoxin – Aflatoxin is “a harmful substance made by certain types of mold ... can form on peanuts, corn, and other nuts and grains ...The United States has safety measures limiting aflatoxin in the food supply.” (National Cancer Institute)
• Iron storage disease
• Obesity and diabetes