A fatty liver can lead to the development of primary liver cancer, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma. It may also lead to cirrhosis, or scarring, and liver failure. Fatty livers can be alcoholic and nonalcoholic, and complications vary between these two types, but people with nonalcoholic fatty livers see a higher risk of developing cancer and other complications than those with alcohol-initiated liver disease.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common type of liver disease not associated with alcohol in the United States, according to WebMD. This condition arises when people store excess fat in their livers, but it does not pose a risk of complications if the liver remains undamaged and does not become inflamed.
However, a similar condition, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, produces both inflammation and damage, often triggering the development of further complications. People with this condition often experience liver enlargement and develop scar tissue over time despite consuming little or no alcohol.
Alcoholic liver disease arises from excess alcohol consumption. Because people can be genetically predisposed to this condition, it sometimes runs in families. It may lead to short-term and long-term liver problems, excess iron consumption and having excess weight increases the risk of problems.