Scottish Cancer Prevention Network

New evidence linking liver cancer to body weight


Apr 15
Maya Monteiro, Deputy Head of Health Information, World Cancer Research Fund UK


In 2012, 4,703 cases of liver cancer were diagnosed in the UK. Liver cancer is more common in men than in women and risk increases with age. Sufferers are often asymptomatic until the disease is advanced, late diagnosis resulting in poor survival rates.


The World Cancer Research Fund’s (WCRF) Continuous Update Project (CUP) is an analysis of global scientific research into the link between diet, nutrition, physical activity, weight and cancer. The review of the evidence on liver cancer included 34 studies involving 8.2 million people, of which over 24,500 were diagnosed with liver cancer. A panel of world-renowned experts evaluated and interpreted the evidence to give their findings.


This CUP review found convincing evidence that being overweight/obese and drinking alcohol can increase the risk of liver cancer. Scientists estimate that around 1 in 4 cases of liver cancer could be prevented in the UK if everyone was a healthy weight and didn’t drink alcohol.


There was probable evidence that drinking coffee, eating fish and being physically active may decrease the risk of liver cancer but more research is needed before these links can be confirmed.


How can people reduce their risk of liver cancer?


People should be aware of their BMI and waist circumference: If necessary WCRF has a range of free tools and resources to help support lifestyle change to lose weight


The evidence shows that drinking 3 or more alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of liver cancer. The risk is even greater if a person smokes. WCRF recommend no more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day for men and 1 for women. For more information see the ‘A Closer Look at Alcohol’ factsheet:


This article, written by Maya Monteiro from WCRF UK originally appeared in Volume 6, Issue 2 of the SCPN Newsletter. View the entire issue here: