Concomitant hepatocyte apoptosis and regeneration is a hallmark of chronic liver diseases (CLDs) predisposing to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Here, we mechanistically link caspase-8-dependent apoptosis to HCC development via proliferation- and replication-associated DNA damage. Proliferation-associated replication stress, DNA damage, and genetic instability are detectable in CLDs before any neoplastic changes occur. Accumulated levels of hepatocyte apoptosis determine and predict subsequent hepatocarcinogenesis. Proliferation-associated DNA damage is sensed by a complex comprising caspase-8, FADD, c-FLIP, and a kinase-dependent function of RIPK1. This platform requires a non-apoptotic function of caspase-8, but no caspase-3 or caspase-8 cleavage. It may represent a DNA damage-sensing mechanism in hepatocytes that can act via JNK and subsequent phosphorylation of the histone variant H2AX.