Liver Cancer

Liver cancer can be categorised as either primary or secondary. Primary liver cancer is cancer that starts in the liver, while secondary liver cancer starts elsewhere in the body and spreads (metastasises) to the liver.

The information in this section focuses on primary liver cancer, or hepatoma (also called hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC). This is the most common type, seen in nine out of 10 cases.

If you’re worried about liver cancer or have just been diagnosed, download our new factsheet about primary liver cancer.

We also have a liver cancer publication for anyone affected.

Facts about Liver Cancer

There are two broad categories of liver cancer: primary and secondary.

Primary liver cancer

Primary liver cancers are cancers that start in the liver. The main types are:
  • Hepatoma, also called hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC – this is the most common type, seen in nine out of 10 cases
  • Biliary tree cancer, which includes cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) and gallbladder cancer
  • Fibrolamellar, a rare form of primary liver cancer that affects adolescents and young adults who have no history of liver disease
  • Angioscarcoma, a cancer of the inner lining of blood vessels, which may occur in the liver.
This publication focuses on hepatoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC.

Secondary liver cancer

Secondary liver cancer is a cancer that first develops elsewhere in the body and then spreads (metastasises) to the liver. It is sometimes called metastatic cancer.
HCC is the most common type of primary liver cancer. In the UK, there are over 5,500 new cases of primary liver cancer diagnosed each year, which is around 15 patients each day. It’s more common in men than in women for reasons that are not fully understood, but may be because liver disease in general is more common in men. It’s more likely to affect people over the age of 65 and is rare below the age of 45.