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Liver cancer factsheet


Background on liver cancer

Excellent information on liver cancer is available from Cancer Council Victoria at:
https://www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer

Here you will find information about the disease, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Cancer Council Victoria also offers cancer support services for Victorians affected by cancer. You can find this information at:
https://www.cancervic.org.au/get-support/cancer-services-guide or phone 13 11 20.

What is liver cancer?

The statistics provided in this report only includes patients diagnosed with primary liver cancer. Primary liver cancer refers to those liver cancers which are believed to have started in the liver. When cancer starts in another area of the body and spreads to the liver, it is referred to as secondary or metastatic cancer in the liver. Most liver cancer originates in other areas of the body and spreads to the liver as a secondary site of the cancer, because the liver is a highly vascular organ.

Globally, approximately 56% of liver cancer is caused by hepatitis B and 20% to hepatitis C. Data from our Victorian Cancer Registry linked with hepatitis data collected by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis has provided a conservative estimate that just under half of all liver cancers in Victoria for the period 1991 to 2013 have a corresponding viral hepatitis notification (30% viral hepatitis C and 17% hepatitis B).

How common is liver cancer?

In 2019, 567 Victorians were diagnosed with liver cancer. Of these, there were 407 males and 160 females, representing 71.8% and 28.2% of the total Victorian liver cancer diagnoses, respectively. 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 3.6% of all cancer-related deaths in 2019, liver cancer was the 17th most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 7th most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.


Figure 1: Distribution of liver cancer incidence in 2019, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)


Figure 2: Distribution of liver cancer incidence in 2019 compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2019, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

Liver cancer morphology

Figure 4 provides a summary of the different types of cells (morphology) which have caused liver cancer. 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 tumours, 63.2%, present as Heptaocellular carcinoma tumours.


Figure 4: Distribution of liver cancer cancer morphologies between 2010-2019

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

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: Distribution of liver cancer incidence in 2019, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

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 2015 to 2019. The highest age standardised incidence rate of liver cancer in males of 15.9 was observed in those born in the South-East Asia region and lowest rate of 4 was observed in people born in the Africa region. The highest age standardised incidence rate of liver cancer in females of 4 was observed in those born in the South-East Asia region and lowest rate of 0.7 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 Australia compared to other countries for the period 2015 - 2019, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)


Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)



Liver cancer five-year relative survival

Figure 7 demonstrates that five-year relative survival has increased for liver cancer between 1989-1993 and 2014-2018 from 5% to 24%.

Figure 7: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of liver cancer in five year brackets, from the period 1989-1993 to 2014-2018

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)