The death rate from liver cancer in the U.S. skyrocketed for American adults between 2000 and 2016, according to a new report, because more people are developing the deadly disease than at any time on record. The figures, which come from a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, are at odds with a decrease in mortality for all cancers combined. Liver-cancer death rates increased for both men and women 25 and older, as well as white, black, and Hispanic people—only Asians and Pacific Islanders saw a decrease in mortality from the disease.
“I think the main reason for the increase in liver cancer incidence and death rate in the U.S. is the increase in the prevalence of excess body weight and hepatitis C virus infection in baby boomers,” said Farhad Islami, scientific director of cancer-surveillance research at the American Cancer Society. Throughout the 16 years analyzed, the death rate of liver among men was two to 2.5 times higher than it was for women, according to the report
More than 70% of liver cancers are caused by underlying liver disease, which has risk factors such as obesity, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and hepatitis B and C infection, said Dr. Farhad Islami, the scientific director of cancer surveillance research at the American Cancer Society.
“I think the main reason for the increase in liver cancer incidence and death rate in the US is the increase in the prevalence of excess body weight and hepatitis C virus infection in baby boomers,” said Islami, who authored a study on liver cancer occurrence between 1990 and 2014.
Up until 1992, blood transfusions and organ transplants were not screened for hepatitis C, Xu said. According to the CDC, this was once a common means of hepatitis C transmission.
It is often years before a person living with hepatitis C develops liver cancer, which would account for an increase in incidence of the cancer among older individuals who received blood transfusions and organs before 1992. Liver cancer mortality was greatest in those 75 and older, followed by those 65 to 74 and 55 to 64, according to the new report.