Liver cancer deaths soar by around 50% in the last decade, according to reports

Posted on: 1st November 2019

New data released by Cancer Research UK and National Cancer Research Institute has revealed that liver cancer death rates have soared by around 50% in the last decade and have tripled since records began.

The British Liver Trust commented on the alarming new statistics and a number of the mainstream media, covered the story including The Express, Scottish Herald and The Telegraph.

80 - 90% of cases of primary liver cancer are linked to cirrhosis (damage and scarring) of the liver which is most often caused by viral hepatitis, alcohol and obesity.

Pamela Healy, chief executive at the British Liver Trust, says: “Our helpline receives many calls from people who have been diagnosed with liver cancer, where the primary cause is liver disease, but this has never been picked up.

“We urge people across the UK to find out more about the risks and symptoms of liver cancer.  It is also essential that GPs and other healthcare professionals to keep the risk factors and warning signs at the front of their mind so people are referred for specialists test and diagnosed quickly.

Cancer Research UK’s data

In 2017, that there were around 5,700 deaths from liver cancer in the UK, which is the highest ever yearly number of deaths recorded. This has climbed from 3,200 deaths in 2007. Of all cancer types, liver cancer has had the largest increase in death rates over the last decade and the most rapid rise in deaths since UK records began.

Cancer Research UK believe that death rates have risen so steeply because the number of people being diagnosed with liver cancer has also increased - by 60% in the last decade - and survival is typically low. It’s one of the hardest cancers to treat, and five-year survival can range from anywhere between 6% and 37% depending on age and gender.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “A lot of progress has been made saving lives from cancer, but it’s worrying to see deaths from liver cancer increasing at such an alarming rate. Far too many lives are being lost, which is why we’re funding more research into this area. And aiming to understand more about the biology of the disease to develop better treatments.

NCRI’s data

In 20 years, from 1997 to 2016, incidence and deaths from the most common form of the disease, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), have tripled and it is most common among the most deprived members of society.

In 20 years, from 1997 to 2016, incidence and deaths from the most common form of the disease, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), have tripled and it is most common among the most deprived members of society.

Mr Hassan Malik is chair of the NCRI Hepatobiliary workstream of the Upper Gastrointestinal Group and a consultant hepatobiliary surgeon at the University Hospital Aintree, Liverpool, UK. He was not involved in the research. He said: "The tripling of liver cancer in the past 20 years is extremely worrying and these data are a wake-up call to policy-makers and health providers that better prevention strategies are urgently needed. Although these new figures apply only to England, we know that alcohol, drug abuse and the resulting liver cirrhosis are even worse problems in Scotland and so HCC rates are likely to be higher.

"Prevention is always better than cure, and this is particularly the case for liver cancer, which is usually only detected in its advanced stages when it's almost impossible to cure. This important piece of work may influence policy-makers in supporting additional resources for the prevention and treatment of all types of primary liver cancers."

 

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