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Liver Cancer Statistics

What is liver cancer?

Primary liver cancer is a malignant tumour that started in the liver. When cancer starts in another area of the body and spreads to the liver, it is a secondary or metastatic cancer. Most liver cancer originates in other areas of the body and spreads to the liver through blood flow. The most common risk factor for liver cancer is long-term infections of hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Worldwide, approximately 56% of liver cancer is caused by hepatitis B and 20% by hepatitis C. Between 1991 and 2013, it is estimated that just under half of liver cancers diagnosed in Victoria have a corresponding hepatitus diagnosis (30% hepatitis C diagnoses and 17% hepatitis B diagnoses).

You can access further information about liver cancer, including risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment from Cancer Council Victoria. You can also call our trusted cancer nurses on 13 11 20 for support and to learn about our range of services for people affected by cancer.

The Victorian Cancer Registry also operates an interactive web portal, Data Explorer, which provides more trends and statistics than published here.

How common is liver cancer?

In 2021, 597 Victorians were diagnosed with liver cancer. Of these, there were 417 males and 180 females, representing 69.8% and 30.2% of the total Victorian liver cancer diagnoses, respectively. Currently, liver cancer is diagnosed at a rate of 7 per 100,000 males and 2.7 per 100,000 females. The median age at diagnosis of liver cancer is 67 years in males and 72 in females (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 1.6% of all cancers diagnosed and 3.7% of all cancer-related deaths in 2021, liver cancer was the 17th most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 6th most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.

Figure 1: Distribution of liver cancer incidence in 2021, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

Figure 2: Distribution of liver cancer incidence in 2021, compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2021, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

Liver cancer morphology

Figure 4 provides a summary of the different types of cells (morphology) which have caused liver cancer among all cases. In accordance with international diagnostic and management guidelines, the Victorian Cancer Registry classifies relevant clinical diagnoses as hepatocellular cancer even in the absence of histological confirmation. Most liver cancer tumours, 67.7%, present as Hepatocellular carcinoma tumours.

Figure 4: Distribution of liver cancer morphologies between 2012-2021

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

Geographical variance in liver cancer by local government area

Figure 5 demonstrates variation in age-standardised incidence rates of liver cancer, by local government areas. Darker shading indicates areas with higher rates of liver cancer.

Figure 5: Variation in the incidence of liver cancer for the period 2017-2021, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

Liver cancer in people born overseas

Figure 6 shows the age standardised incidence rates of liver cancer in Australian-born Victorians compared to other major migrant groups, over the five-year period 2017 to 2021. The highest age standardised incidence rate of liver cancer in males of 16.3 was observed in those born in the South-East Asia region and lowest rate of 5.9 was observed in people born in the North America region. The highest age standardised incidence rate of liver cancer in females of 4.2 was observed in those born in the South-East Asia region and lowest rate of 1.3 was observed in people born in the Southern and Central Asia region.

Figure 6: Age standardised incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals for liver cancer in Victorians born in Australia compared to Victorians born in other countries for the period 2017-2021, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

Liver cancer five-year relative survival

Figure 7 shows the change in 5-year survival for liver cancer, and the 5-year survival trend for all cancers over the same time period. It demonstrates that five-year relative survival has increased for liver cancer between 1986-1990 and 2016-2020 from 7% to 27%.

Figure 7: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of liver cancer in five year brackets, from the period 1986-1990 to 2016-2020

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

This webpage was last updated in March 2023

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