Can eating junk food cause liver cancer or fatty liver? Here's what doctors say

Updated on Feb 01, 2022 06:22 PM IST

Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths globally. Ahead of World Cancer Day 2022, doctors spill the beans on the junk food's role in it and how to prevent liver tumour or chances of a fatty liver

Can eating junk food cause liver cancer or fatty liver? Here's what doctors say (Twitter/AHealthyBod)
Can eating junk food cause liver cancer or fatty liver? Here's what doctors say (Twitter/AHealthyBod)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

The campaign theme for World Cancer Day 2022 is 'Close the care gap' and for the uninitiated - liver is the largest internal organ that lies under our right ribs, just beneath our right lung, has two lobes or sections and cancer in the liver starts when cells anywhere in the liver begin to grow out of control. Apart from removing toxins and other chemical waste products from the blood, the liver is also responsible for continuously filtering blood that circulates through the body and converting nutrients and drugs absorbed from the digestive tract into ready-to-use chemicals.

What is liver cancer and its causes?

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Rajiv Lochan, Lead Consultant and HPB and Liver Transplantation Surgery at Manipal Hospital Old Airport Road in Bengaluru, shared, “Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths globally and the most common form of liver cancer is Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer), etc and benign liver tumours such as Hepatic adenoma and Focal nodular hyperplasia.”

He added, “The key causes include hepatitis B and C viral infections, cirrhosis (end stage liver disease), drinking water contaminated with arsenic, obesity, diabetes and high alcohol intake. Fatty liver can promote liver inflammation. This can progress to cirrhosis and ultimately may lead to liver cancer. Fatty liver usually develops in people who are overweight, have diabetes or high lipid profile. Poor eating habits, especially a diet rich in fats and sugar can promote fatty liver. This can later turn to a liver tumour in many with those with faulty metabolism.”

Is junk food related to liver cancer and how to prevent it?

Offering a solution, Dr Rajiv Lochan revealed, “Junk food has become a routine part of people's lives. All these fast food items not only cause obesity but can also damage your liver leading to cirrhosis and increase the risk of developing liver cancer.”

Dr Pramod Kumar Julka , Principal Director and Medical Oncology at Max Institute of Cancer Care in Delhi's Lajpat Nagar elaborated, “Junk food has been known to cause cancer in a different way. Junk food means the food which you take have not been properly cooked or has hydrocarbon, we call it polycyclica hydrocarbon or has certain chemicals which are carcinogenic. There are certain chemical which cause carcinogen-like effect and hence, called chemical carcinogen and chemically they cause cancer in certain individuals."

Explaining how certain individuals are prone for cancer because of low immunity or smoking or alcohol, Dr Pramod Kumar Julka asserted, "We all have the gut microbio which means intestinal flora (we have both good and bad bacteria in our intestine). That is why we say if you take junk food, it will enhance the bad bacteria in the intestine and cause cancer. That is why we Should aviod junk food in any form and take healthy food with high proteins carbohydrates fats in adequate quantity to stay healthy.”

Pointing out how in recent times, one of the common findings in patients presenting to a gastroenterology practice is finding of fatty liver during routine health checks, Dr G Harshavardhan Reddy, Medical Gastroenterologist at Kamineni Hospitals in Hyderabad, blamed it on a sedentary lifestyle, eating calorie rich foods, high carbohydrate content foods, aerated drinks along with lack of exercise.

Saying that it is fuelling a silent endemic in the form of NAFL (non alcoholic fatty liver), Dr G Harshavardhan Reddy alerted, “India is being labelled as a diabetic capital of the world, which also is a big contributing factor for liver disease especially in people who are regular consumers of junk food. Various scientific studies have showed us the progression of NAFL to NASH (non alcoholic steatohepatitis) to cirrhosis, likelihood of hepatocellualr carcinoma is high in patients with cirrhosis.”

He added, “Widespread awareness regarding this disease is warranted to take corrective measures . One of the foremost things to rectify this problem is to cut down junk foods , exercise regularly and to keep a track of one’s cholesterol levels and maintain a BMI between 23.5-25 kg/m2 . NAFL is a lifestyle disease, corrective measures are also changes in lifestyle. Junk food intake has to be regulated to a minimum in order to prevent progression to a more sinister problem .”


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