Risk factors

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a certain condition or disease. Researchers know about some risk factors that increase the chance of developing cancer. However, for most children with cancer, the cause is unknown.

What we do know is that if a child develops cancer, it’s not because of something they, or their parents did to cause it. No one is to blame if a child develops cancer.

Even if your child has a risk factor, it doesn’t mean they will develop cancer. Many children with a risk factor will never develop cancer, most children with cancer have no known risk factors. Even if a child with a risk factor develops cancer, the risk factor may not have had much to do with it.

Researchers don’t completely understand what causes liver tumours. However, some things have been linked to a higher chance of getting liver tumours.


Genetic conditions

Research links several genetic conditions with hepatoblastoma. They include:

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

Research also links hepatocellular carcinoma with genetic conditions that affect the liver, including:

  • Alagille syndrome
  • glycogen storage disease
  • tyrosinaemia
  • progressive familial intrahepatic disease.

If your child has one of these genetic conditions, they will need specific care. Your health care team will talk to you about which ongoing tests your child will need.

Childhood cancers that have links to genetic conditions may also affect the risk for other family members. You can ask your child’s treatment team if you or your family should get genetic counselling.

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

Certain virus infections

Mothers with the hepatitis B virus can infect their children during birth. Children who are infected have a higher chance of getting hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer that is more common in adults than children.

Other factors

A child with a very low birth weight has an increased risk of getting a hepatoblastoma.

Biliary cirrhosis (a type of chronic liver disease) can increase a child’s risk of getting hepatocellular carcinoma.

Males have a higher chance of getting hepatocellular carcinoma than females.