The Rise of Liver Cancer
Why rates are increasing and what you can do about it.
The liver serves over 500 functions, including its well-known role as a toxin filter.
In the past 30 years, rates of liver cancer have tripled in the U.S.
39,230 Cases Per Year in 2016
Research suggests some possible reasons for the increase of liver cancer.
Currently 11% of liver cancers are related to obesity, but those numbers may increase. Over 36% of American adults are considered obese — up from less than 15% in 1982.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
Excess body fat can lead to cirrhosis and even liver failure, similar to the effects of heavy drinking. NASH is now the second most common reason for liver transplant.
Research has shown that obese patients who have type 2 diabetes are 2.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with liver cancer. Diabetes rates have more than doubled over 30 years.
People may have contracted hepatitis in the 80s and 90s without even knowing it, as there were no vaccines and awareness was low. Over 20-30 years, liver scarring from the disease may now be developing into liver cancer.
What you do today can help change the trend of liver cancer.
Take action to reduce your risk. People with healthy lifestyles are far less likely to be diagnosed with liver cancer.
- Consume alcohol in moderation
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get hepatitis B vaccine
- Reduce your risk for hepatitis C
Report symptoms right away. Most symptoms do not develop until later stages, but the survival rates are almost 3X higher if caught in an early stage. Symptoms include:
- Fatigue, weakness
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- White, chalky stools
- Losing weight unexpectedly
- Nausea and vomiting
- Yellow discoloration of skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
If diagnosed, treatments are available.
Surgical procedures are an option for some patients.
- Surgery to remove a small tumor.
- Liver transplant to replace the diseased liver with a healthy one.
Specialized localized treatments offer possible ways to kill cancer cells directly by using needles or probes to:
- Heat cancer cells
- Freeze cancer cells
- Inject alcohol, chemotherapy drugs or radioactive material into the tumor
Source: MayoClinic.org; Cancer.org; Cancer.gov.