Drink, obesity behind steep rise in liver deaths

Monday, August 30, 2010

LONDON - Binge drinking and obesity are contributing to a steep rise in deaths from liver disease. The number of deaths from damaged, diseased and worn-out livers has gone up by 60 percent in just a decade in Britain.

Liver disease, including cancer, claimed 9,719 lives in Britain in 2008 alone, up from 6,058 10 years earlier, a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Hepatology Group said, according to the Daily Mail.

Alcohol is 75 percent cheaper now than in 1980. Heavy drinking can inflame the liver, causing jaundice and leading to comas and even death.

Long-term, excessive drinking can also cause cirrhosis, which destroys normal liver tissue and is replaced by scar tissue. The number of cases has increased 10-fold in recent decades.

Doctors have warned that the alcohol-induced problem, usually found in older adults, is now being diagnosed in teenagers.

Liver cancer is also on the rise. Although it is relatively common for cancers to spread to the liver, few cancers started there until recently.

Don Shenker of the charity Alcohol Concern, which is calling for high-strength beers and ciders to be taxed more heavily, said the combination of cheap alcohol and round-the-clock drinking, had fuelled a surge in drink-related deaths.

Many young people take advantage of cheap supermarket alcohol, then go out later and stay out later. So their overall alcohol consumption has gone up, he said.

Hepatitis C is also contributing to the surge in liver deaths. Many of today’s deaths are from infections caught in the 1970s and 80s, before blood transfusions were screened for the virus.

The report highlights huge variations in the care and treatment given to hepatitis patients in British hospitals.

Tory MP David Amess, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Hepatology Group, said: “There is effective treatment available for hepatitis C so there is absolutely no excuse for the death toll to continue rising. The staggering increase in deaths from liver disease and liver cancer show just how vital it is that the national liver strategy is developed as a matter of urgency.’

Filed under: Cancer, Hepatitis, Medicine, Obesity, World

will not be displayed