Risk factors

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A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a certain condition or disease, such as cancer. In adults, lifestyle and environmental factors (such as smoking or exposure to certain chemicals) can be significant risk factors for developing certain types of cancer. In children, very few risk factors have been identified that increase the chance of developing cancer. For most children with cancer, the underlying cause is unknown.

Even if your child has a risk factor, it does not mean they will develop cancer. Many children with a risk factor will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a child with a risk factor develops cancer, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.

The causes of liver tumours are not well understood, but factors associated with a higher chance of developing liver tumours include the following.

Genetic conditions

Several genetic conditions are associated with hepatoblastoma, including:

  • Aicardi syndrome
  • Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome
  • familial adenomatous polyposis
  • hemihyperplasia.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is associated with genetic conditions that affect the liver, such as Alagille syndrome, glycogen storage disease, tyrosinaemia and progressive familial intrahepatic disease.

If your child is diagnosed with one of these genetic conditions, they will need specific follow-up. The health care team will advise which ongoing tests your child will need.

Cancers in children that are linked to genetic conditions may also affect the risk for other family members. Speak to your child’s treatment team to see whether genetic counselling is recommended for you or your family.

For more information about genetic conditions, see the children’s cancer glossary or the Centre for Genetics Education.

Certain virus infections

Children who were infected with the hepatitis B virus from their mother during birth have a higher chance of developing hepatocellular carcinoma.

Other factors

Having a very low birth weight may increase the chance of your child developing a hepatoblastoma.

Biliary cirrhosis (a type of chronic liver disease) can increase the chance of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. Males have a higher chance of developing hepatocellular carcinoma than females.

published: Sunday, 23 August, 2015