Liver cancer cases set to rise by 55% in the coming decades 

Liver cancer cases set to rise by 55% in the coming decades
©iStockElena Merkulova

Researchers have called for more to be done to control liver cancer as cases are set to rise by 55% by 2040.  

Primary liver cancer is among the top three causes of cancer death across 46 countries according to new research. According to the researchers, countries must achieve a 3% annual decrease in cases and mortality rates. 

A new study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, has outlined new strategies to control the disease.  

Liver cancer can be prevented

Liver cancer causes a huge burden of disease globally each year,” said senior author Isabelle Soerjomataram, of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon.  

“It is also largely preventable if control efforts are prioritised — major risk factors include hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, alcohol consumption, excess body weight, and metabolic conditions including type 2 diabetes.”  

“In light of the availability of new and improved global cancer incidence and mortality estimates, we wanted to provide the most up-to-date assessment of the burden of liver cancer and develop an essential tool for national liver cancer control planning,” explained lead author Harriet Rumgay, also of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 

The researchers examined data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s GLOBOCAN 2020 database. Using this data, they were able to make their estimates for incidence and mortality estimates for 36 cancer types in 185 countries. The results showed that in 2020, an estimated 905,700 individuals were diagnosed with liver cancer and 830,200 died from the disease globally worldwide.  

“We are at a turning point in liver cancer prevention as successes in hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus control efforts will be reflected in rates of liver cancer in the next few decades,” said Dr Soerjomataram.  

“These efforts must be sustained and reinforced especially considering the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on certain hepatitis B and C virus control efforts.” 

Cases and deaths were highest in east Asia, south-east Asia, and north Africa. The predicted global rise of the disease by 55% over the next 20 years would increase the need for resources for liver cancer.  

Improvements to care are needed

The researchers have called for public health officials to improve the management of liver cancer patients throughout the cancer pathway. They have suggested improvement to access to palliative care and reinforcements to current cancer prevention measures such as immunisation, testing, and treatment for hepatitis B and C. The researchers have also cited high rates of alcohol consumption and obesity as reasons for the rise in cases.  

“The number of people diagnosed with or dying from liver cancer per year could increase by nearly 500,000 cases or deaths by 2040 unless we achieve a substantial decrease in liver cancer rates through primary prevention,” concluded Dr Soerjomataram. 

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