Obesity, inflammation, and liver cancer

J Hepatol. 2012 Mar;56(3):704-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.09.020. Epub 2011 Nov 25.


Obesity has become a universal and major public health problem with increasing prevalence in both adults and children in the 21st century, even in developing countries. Extensive epidemiological studies reveal a strong link between obesity and development and progression of various types of cancers. The connection between obesity and liver cancer is particularly strong and obesity often results in liver diseases such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and the more severe non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH is characterized by fatty liver inflammation and is believed to cause fibrosis and cirrhosis. The latter is a known liver cancer risk factor. In fact due to its much higher prevalence obesity may be a more substantial contributor to overall hepatocellular carcinoma burden than infection with hepatitis viruses. Here we review and discuss recent advances in elucidation of cellular and molecular alterations and signaling pathways associated with obesity and liver inflammation and their contribution to hepatocarcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fatty Liver / epidemiology*
  • Fatty Liver / immunology
  • Fatty Liver / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / epidemiology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / immunology
  • Liver Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors