London: Liver cancer deaths have increased by around 50 per cent in the last decade and have tripled since records began, researchers have warned.
The new mortality data from Cancer Research UK, shows that there were around 5,700 deaths from liver cancer in 2017 in the UK, which is the highest ever yearly number of deaths recorded.
Rapid rise in deaths
This has climbed from 3,200 deaths in 2007. Of all cancer types, liver cancer has had the largest increase in deaths over the last decade and the most rapid rise in deaths since the UK records began.
“Unfortunately, progress in treating liver cancer has been painfully slow and we desperately need more options for patients. Another problem is the rise in the number of people being diagnosed, which has meant we are losing more people to this disease than ever before,” said researcher Helen Reeves, Professor at Newcastle University.
Experts believe that death rates have risen so steeply because the number of people being diagnosed with liver cancer has also increased — by 60 per cent 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 six per cent and 37 per cent depending on age and gender, the researchers said.
According to the study, while there are several factors affecting liver cancer risk, being overweight or obese and smoking are two of the biggest preventable causes.
Causes of liver cancer
Twenty-three per cent of liver cancer cases can be linked to being overweight or obese, and 20 per cent can be linked to smoking. Overall, around half of cases are preventable.
“Rising levels of obesity and associated conditions like diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases have likely had a big role in this, although they aren’t the only factors,” Reeves 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,” said Michelle Mitchell from Cancer Research UK.
“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,” Mitchell added.