While the national rate of liver cancer has more than tripled since 1980, Latinos born in the United States face an even greater risk for the malignancy compared with the rest of the population.

A study from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California found that each subsequent generation of Mexican Americans sees an increase in the risk for liver cancer.

Published in Cancer, the study utilized data from more than 31,000 first-, second- and third-generation Mexican Americans, according to a Keck news release.

Findings showed that second-generation Mexican Americans (U.S.-born with at least one parent born in Mexico) were about 37% more likely to develop liver cancer compared with first-generation Mexican Americans (those born in Mexico). Similarly, third-generation Mexican Americans (U.S. born with both parents born in the United States) were about 66% more likely to be diagnosed with hepatocellular cancer, also known as liver cancer. The increased risk primarily affected men.

“With each successive generation, we’re seeing an increased risk of liver cancer. When we look more closely at this trend, the numbers are significant,” said lead author Veronica Wendy Setiawan, PhD, a professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine, in the news release.

The liver, which weighs about 3 to 4 pounds, performs many important bodily functions. It acts as a filtration system for the body, cleaning the blood and removing toxins, such as alcohol and drugs. The liver also produces bile, which helps the body digest food.

Certain metabolic conditions, including obesity and diabetes, and lifestyle factors, such as alcohol consumption and smoking in later generations, only partlty explain the increase in liver cancer incidence.

“Liver cancer is becoming a growing concern among Latinos, underscoring the importance of comprehending the factors driving this trend. Although we currently lack a precise understanding of why second- and third-generation Mexican Americans are at a heightened risk of liver cancer, we have highlighted the importance of prioritizing research on these populations,” Setiawan said in a Wiley news release. “In the future, identifying the risk factors within this group may facilitate the discovery of the underlying causes behind these observations.”

To learn more about this disease, click #Liver Cancer or read Cancer Health’s Basics on Liver Cancer. It reads in part:

Who gets liver cancer?

More than 41,000 people a year are diagnosed with liver cancer in the United States, and the rate is rising. While cancer of the liver and bile ducts is the 13th most common type of cancer in the United States, it is the fifth leading cause of cancer death, according to the National Cancer Institute. Worldwide, it is the second leading cause of cancer death.


Men are more than twice as likely as women to develop liver cancer. It is most likely to occur in people over age 60. In the United States, liver cancer is most common among Asians and Pacific Islanders because the prevalence of hepatitis B is high in this group. Latinos and African Americans also have higher rates than white people.


What are the risk factors for liver cancer?

Hepatitis B and C are the most common causes of hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus multiply in liver cells. Over time, they can lead to serious liver disease, including liver cirrhosis, or buildup of scar tissue.


Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine and treated with antiviral medications. Effective new treatments for hepatitis C can cure the disease and stop liver disease progression. But people who have developed cirrhosis before treatment remain at risk for liver cancer.


Heavy alcohol consumption, exposure to aflatoxin (a substance made by a fungus that grows on grains and peanuts) and other toxic substances, and some inherited conditions can also cause cirrhosis. Fatty liver disease is a growing cause of liver damage leading to liver cancer. Most cases of liver cancer—but not all—occur in people with cirrhosis.


What are the symptoms of liver cancer?

The liver is responsible for vital functions such as filtering the blood, processing drugs and producing important proteins. Cirrhosis and liver cancer can cause many symptoms, including:


–Unexplained fatigue or weakness

–Pain in the upper abdomen

–Nausea or vomiting

–Loss of appetite

–Unexplained weight loss

–Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)

–Dark urine and pale stools

–Bloated or swollen abdomen

–Abnormal bruising or bleeding

–Bleeding in the throat or stomach

–Mental confusion.


However, many people with liver disease do not develop symptoms until its late stages, when it is harder to treat.


Click here for a list of approved medications used to treat liver cancer.