Angiosarcoma of the liver is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the cells involved in immune system response. It accounts for about 0.1–2% of all liver cancers, but is the third most common type of liver cancer.

Many cases of angiosarcoma of the liver have no known cause. However, long-term exposure to industrial chemicals can increase a person’s risk.

This article reviews liver angiosarcoma, its symptoms, staging, causes, and more.

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Angiosarcoma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of blood and lymph cells. It can form in the liver and accounts for about 0.1–2% of all liver cancers.

Symptoms of liver angiosarcoma can vary. They are also nonspecific, meaning that other conditions have similar symptoms. A person may experience:

In some cases, a person may have no symptoms, and a doctor may discover it during another exam.

Learn more about liver cancer here.

As with other forms of cancer, doctors will typically describe how advanced angiosarcoma is by assigning it a stage. Staging typically takes into account:

  • the size of the tumor
  • how far it has spread outside the liver or to distant parts of the body
  • lymph node involvement
  • location of the tumor

Doctors usually use the TNM Staging System. In TNM, the letters stand for:

  • T — tumor, which describes the size of the tumor
  • N — lymph nodes, which describes how many and which lymph nodes have cancer
  • M — metastases, which describes whether the cancer has spread

A doctor will likely use the TNM staging system to help talk about the cancer and determine a person’s best treatment options.

About 75% of all cases have no known cause. However, the most common known causes are exposure to the following:

  • vinyl chloride monomer and other industrial materials
  • colloidal thorium dioxide (Thorotrast)
  • androgenic steroid use
  • chronic arsenic ingestion
  • radium

Angiosarcoma may take 10–40 years to develop after environmental exposure.

In adults, it is most common in older males in their 60s and 70s. In children, it is more common in females.

Angiosarcoma occurs when DNA changes in the cells that line blood vessels or lymph cells. The changes cause the cells to grow out of control and have unnaturally long lives, leading to the development of a tumor.

Genetic disorders

Certain genetic disorders and changes may increase the chances of a person developing liver angiosarcoma. They can include:

Angiosarcoma of the liver will typically present with symptoms that are similar to several other, more common liver issues, if they present at all. As a result, a doctor will need to perform several tests to help rule out other conditions.

To help with diagnosis, a doctor may:

  • perform a physical exam
  • review personal and family medical history and ask about possible exposure to industrial chemicals
  • take a biopsy
  • use imaging tests to examine the liver

Learn about liver scans here.

A doctor may recommend one or more different treatment options to help treat liver angiosarcoma. Options can include:

The most effective form of treatment is surgical removal, although it is not always feasible.

Learn more about treatments for liver cancer here.


A person can take steps that may help them feel better during treatment. Some self-care tips include:

  • gathering friends and family to make a support network that can help with attending treatments as well as other personal and household chores
  • eating a well-balanced diet
  • exercising regularly or being as active as possible
  • trying complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, yoga, or other holistic approaches

Follow-up care

A person should work with a doctor and healthcare team to develop a plan for treatment and aftercare. A doctor will likely recommend follow-up visits and additional treatments.

It is important that a person follows a doctor’s instructions and attends appointments to ensure the best outcome.

About 75% of all cases of liver angiosarcoma have no known cause, which can make prevention difficult.

However, a person can take steps to reduce their risk by limiting their exposure to industrial chemicals.

Vinyl production uses vinyl chloride. People who work or live near plants that produce vinyl may be at higher risk of exposure.

Vinyl chloride is in:

  • new cars as it evaporates
  • the environment as soil organisms break down “chlorinated” solvents
  • air around factories that produce vinyl
  • drinking water contaminated with broken down chlorinated chemicals

The risk may be higher for people with exposure to environmental pollutants over many years.

What should a person do if they think they are at risk?

A person should talk with a doctor if they have had long-term exposure to industrial chemicals. The doctor may recommend regular monitoring of their liver health. This may include additional liver function testing or imaging to check for cancer.

Life expectancy is not high for people diagnosed with angiosarcoma of the liver.

Without treatment, most people die within 6 months. With treatment, only about 3% of people with liver angiosarcoma live more than 2 years from the date of initial diagnosis.

A person should talk with a doctor if they notice that their skin or eyes have a yellow tint. This can indicate an issue with the liver.

A person should also consider consulting a doctor if they experience pain in the upper right part of their abdomen. This can also indicate an issue with the liver.

Liver angiosarcoma is rare, so experiencing symptoms is more likely due to another condition.

Learn more about liver pain here.

Liver angiosarcoma is a rare cancer that affects the blood and lymph vessels. It is an aggressive cancer with typically poor outcomes.

Most cases have no known cause, but long-term exposure to industrial chemicals can increase a person’s risk.

The best treatment is surgical intervention, but other treatment options may include chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

A person should work with a doctor to determine the best course of treatment.