Doctors are not sure what causes most cases of liver cancer. However, they do know that many hepatitis viruses cause the disease, notes Mayo Clinic.
In order for liver cancer to develop, changes in the DNA of the liver's cells must occur. Hepatitis can cause liver cancer because it damages the DNA in the cells. Viruses contain their own DNA which can override the body's DNA, affecting the cell's genes, causing "bad" DNA to develop.
Besides hepatitis, there are a few other factors doctors believe may lead to liver cancer. Inherited liver diseases, such as Wilson's disease, may be a culprit and cirrhosis of the liver may also play a part. Diabetes, drinking alcohol to excess, obesity and being overweight people or those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease seem to be at a higher risk for liver cancer.
During the early stages of liver cancer, symptoms may not appear, notes Mayo Clinic. In its more advanced stages, patients may notice a loss of appetite leading to significant weight loss, upper abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, and general weakness and fatigue. Patients experiencing one or more of these symptoms, or white, chalky stools or a yellowing of the eyes or skin should seek medical attention as soon as possible.