British Liver Trust calls for upstream interventions from the Government to turn the tide on the liver cancer epidemic

Posted on: 20th July 2023

Evidence submitted by the British Liver Trust to the Health Select Committee’s recent cancer inquiry, calls for urgent action from the Government to transform liver cancer diagnosis, treatment and care.

The Future Cancer inquiry aims to investigate groundbreaking advancements in cancer diagnosis and treatment, focusing on their potential to revolutionize patient care in the short, medium, and long term. It will assess the most effective methods of implementing these innovations into frontline clinical settings and will draw insights from international examples of best practice,

The submission from the British Liver Trust attracted significant media attention, with features in the Observer, Guardian online and the Daily Mail.  These articles put a spotlight on our call to reduce the carcinogenic effects of junk food and high strength alcohol.

Shockingly, liver cancer is now the fastest rising cause of cancer death in the UK. Mortality rates have increased by 40% over the last decade alone – accelerated by industry promotion of high strength alcohol and junk food.

In our submission, we are urging the Government to shift focus onto prevention and improving how the unhealthy food and drink environment is regulated to reduce harm, cut costs, and ultimately save lives. Excess alcohol consumption and obesity, major risk factors for developing a multitude of cancers including liver cancer, are exacerbating huge avoidable pressures on our NHS.

Alcohol, classified as a group 1 carcinogen, is responsible for at least 7 types of cancer, while obesity acts as a force multiplier on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and common cancers such as breast, bowel, and prostate cancers.

Furthermore, the abundance of unhealthy food, which is often cheaper and more accessible to consumers, coupled with the ubiquity of cheap, high-strength alcohol, disproportionately impacts our most disadvantaged and deprived communities. This situation is deeply concerning, as alcohol misuse alone can increase the risk of developing liver cancer up to 10-fold.

To make matters worse, childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing at an unprecedented pace. Alarmingly, up to 4 in 10 obese children are estimated to have fatty liver disease, thereby magnifying their lifetime risk of developing liver cancer by up to 700%. It is imperative that immediate action is taken to address these issues and protect the well-being of individuals and communities.

British Liver Trust Chief Executive, Pamela Healy OBE said: “The sharp rise in liver cancer is a preventable tragedy, which can only be reversed through bold action to address our broken food system and harmful drinking.”

“Population wide measures are proven to be the most effective interventions to improve population health, cut costs and reduce health inequalities. Prevention is always better than a cure.

The Government needs to deliver on existing commitments to reduce childhood obesity, introduce watershed restrictions on junk food advertising on TV and online and bring forward the ban on multibuy junk food deals.”

The British Liver Trust’s submission to the Future Cancer inquiry also highlights the importance of implementing innovations to transform liver cancer diagnosis and treatment. Intelligent liver function tests and FibroScans can identify high-risk groups, while increased investment in biomarker research enables early diagnosis and improved treatment prediction.  Equitable access to minimally invasive therapies like Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) can significantly enhance outcomes.  Additionally, addressing workforce shortages in critical areas like gastroenterology, hepatology, radiology, and oncology is vital for ensuring equitable access to specialist care.

To read the full submission visit: recent cancer inquiry