Liver Cancer Tops All Cancers

Liver Cancer Tops All Cancers

Liver cancer topped the three causes of cancer deaths in 46 countries in 2020 and the number of people diagnosed with or dying from primary liver cancer per year could rise by more than 55 per cent by 2040, according to a  new analysis. Investigators call for efforts to control the disease to be prioritized in a new study in the Journal of Hepatology.

The researchers in their analysis of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s GLOBOCAN 2020database,  said that the data of 2020 showed that an estimated 905,700 individuals were diagnosed with liver cancer and 830,200 died from liver cancer globally. GLOBOCAN data relates to cancer incidence and mortality estimates for 36 cancer types in 185 countries worldwide. 

The researchers said that liver cancer as per the data is now among the top three causes of cancer death in 46 countries and is among the top five causes of cancer death in nearly 100 countries including several high-income countries.


The study said that liver cancer incidence and mortality rates were highest in Eastern Asia, Northern Africa, and South-Eastern Asia. Investigators predict the annual number of new cases and deaths from liver cancer will rise by more than 55% over the next 20 years, assuming current rates do not change. The predicted rise in cases will increase the need for resources to manage care of liver cancer patients.

The researchers were alarmed to find that the number of cases and deaths from liver cancer will continue to increase year on year. They caution that in order to avoid this rise in cases and deaths, countries across the world must achieve at least a 3% annual decrease in liver cancer incidence and mortality rates through preventive measures.

Senior author Isabelle Soerjomataram (International Agency for Research on Cancer(IARC/WHO), Cancer Surveillance Branch, Lyon, France, commented that liver cancer caused a huge burden of disease globally each year. “It is also largely preventable if control efforts are prioritized — major risk factors include hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, alcohol consumption, excess body weight, and metabolic conditions including type 2 diabetes,” the author said.

Dr. Soerjomataram said that the world is 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. “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,” the researcher said.

The authors call for public health officials to prepare for the predicted increase in demand for resources to manage the care of liver cancer patients throughout the cancer pathway, including improved access to palliative care due to the predicted growing number of liver cancer patients, and to reinforce current liver cancer prevention measures such as immunization, testing, and treatment for hepatitis B virus; population-wide testing and treatment for hepatitis C virus infection; reduction of population alcohol consumption; and curbing the rise in diabetes and obesity prevalence.


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