Liver cancer cases in several developed countries have doubled in the past 25 years, due to the continuing obesity epidemic and a spike in hepatitis infections.
Even worse, the sharp rise in liver cancer cases is starting to swamp the limited number of liver specialists in those nations.
In the four countries — the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada — liver cancer is the only major cancer for which death rates are rising.
While the individual rates in these countries differ, the trends are the same.
This year, alone an estimated 42,220 adults (30,610 men and 11,610 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with primary liver cancer. Since 1980, incidence of liver cancer has tripled, although rates in young adults are starting to decrease. Men are about 3 times more likely than women to be diagnosed with the disease
Liver cancer incidence is highest in the United Kingdom (9.6 per 100,000 people), followed by 9.2 in the United States, 7.4 in Australia and 6.0 in Canada. The rankings are the same for liver cancer deaths.
Cancer Research UK predicts a further 40 percent increase in liver cancer cases by 2035.
The prospects of surviving liver cancer are bleak.
Liver Cancer Mortality Rates
It is estimated that 30,200 deaths (20,540 men and 9,660 women) from this disease will occur this year. For men, liver cancer is the 10th most common cancer and the 5th most common cause of cancer death. It is also the 8th most common cause of cancer death among women
Obesity is one of the main culprits.
Obesity causes nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which can also progress to liver cancer. About 20 percent of people in developed countries have some degree of NAFLD. Of these, 1 in 10 could develop cirrhosis, and 20 to 30 percent of those people could develop liver cancer. That means obesity alone is likely to lead to an overwhelming number of liver cancer cases in years to come
The effects of this disease on the health system and on families are devastating.
We are completely unprepared to deal with such an epidemic. And not only would we be submerged in the sheer number of cases, the financial considerations for the health systems in these countries would be phenomenal.
Many of these liver cancers strike people in their 50s, when they are still of working age. So families are not only in danger of losing a loved one, but that loved one could be the main breadwinner in their family unit.
Obesity Drives Liver Cancer in Developed Countries, WebMD, Robert Preidt. June 15, 2018
Liver Cancer: Statistics, Staff Reporting, Cancer.Net