It’s time to pay more attention to liver cancer. Even as breast-cancer, lung-cancer and other cancer fatalities continue to drop, liver cancer is now the fastest-rising cause of U.S. cancer deaths, a recent study shows. Since the mid-1980s, death rates from liver cancer have doubled. An estimated 41,000 new cases and 29,000 liver-cancer deaths are expected in 2017.
Only 1 in 5 patients survive after being diagnosed with liver cancer, the recent study notes. “Liver cancer does not have a good prognosis,” says Dr. Farhad Islami, strategic director of cancer surveillance research for the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study published June 6 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. “But the good thing is that most cases can be prevented.”
Baby boomers, in particular, should take note: Hepatitis is the top risk factor for liver cancer, and Americans born between 1945 and 1965 are most likely by far to be infected with the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, develops in several different ways.Infectious types, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, are caused by viruses, and are usually spread via contaminated body fluids. It’s not clear why people in this age group have high rates of hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They may have been infected when transmission was at its highest in the 1960s through 1980s.