In 16 Years, a Dramatic Increase in Liver Cancer Death Rate

Liver cancer death rate in US surged 43% in 16 years	 	 	 			Blood sample for liver cancer test

Although the mortality rate for all cancers combined has declined over 25 years, death rates from liver cancer increased 43 percent for US adults from 2000 to 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The increased mortality rates were seen amongst almost all groups, with the exception of Asians and Pacific Islanders, who saw a decrease in deaths from liver cancer.

More men died of liver cancer; the death rate for men was between 2 and 2.5 times the rate for women, according to the CDC. For example, the rates of people getting liver cancer haven't changed much, and the disease is still hard to detect and, in many cases, treat. This increase in liver cancer deaths is particularly noteworthy, as overall mortality rates for all types of cancer have declined.

According to Dr. Jiaquan Xu, who led the study, blood transfusions were not screened for hepatitis C until 1992. So it makes sense that older people who got blood transfusions or an organ transplant prior to 1992 are now experiencing more cases of liver cancer; mortality was greatest in those 75 or older.

The opioid epidemic might also be at fault, said Dr. Manish A. Shah, a medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian.

The 1990s and 2000s saw elevated rates of liver cirrhosis, a risk factor for liver cancer, which was caused by the spread of hepatitis C through the sharing of needles.

Drebin noted that liver cancer rates rise with age because of the long-term effects of liver inflammation.

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He said more than 70 percent of liver cancers are caused by underlying liver disease.

"Some of these liver cancer risk factors like obesity, diabetes and excess consumption of alcohol, those things can be prevented", he said. The disease rose from the ninth-leading cause of cancer-related death to the sixth-leading cause between 2000 and 2016, according to data from the National Vital Statistics System. Nevertheless, both men and women saw increases in mortality rates in the period studied.

Looking at death rates by race and ethnicity, the report found that death rates rose in Hispanic, non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white adults from 2000 to 2016.

It's not that liver cancer has become deadlier over the years, researchers believe.

Among the 50 states, Washington, D.C., had the highest death rate and Vermont the lowest.

Liver cancer deaths are so uncommon for people younger than 25 that they were not included in the NCHS report.


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