A new study examining data on incidence trends, mortality rates and survival rates from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) cancer registries indicates that the incidence of liver cancer in the United States tripled between 1975 and 2005.
Researchers also found for the first time that one- through five-year survival rates improved significantly for patients diagnosed with liver cancer between 1992 and 2005, in part because more patients were diagnosed at earlier stages, when treatment is more effective. Earlier diagnosis may be due to increasing awareness and screening to detect localized disease in patients at risk for liver cancer.
“Although the study could not determine why liver incidence rates are increasing, these trends may be partially attributable to an increase in chronic hepatitis C, which together with hepatitis B is a major risk factor for liver cancer,” said Dr. Sean Altekruse, an Epidemiologist with the NCI’s SEER Program and the study’s lead author. “Additional research into the factors related to this increase in incidence will be vital to preventing these rates from rising further.” Dr. Altekruse noted that heavy alcohol consumption, fatty liver disease, obesity, diabetes mellitus and iron storage diseases may also contribute to the increasing incidence of liver cancer.
The study found that between 1975 and 2005, liver cancer rates tripled, from 1.6 cases per 100,000 people to 4.9 per 100,000. From 1992 to 2005, liver cancer incidence trends increased significantly:
Jennifer Obel, ASCO official and Attending Physician, NorthShore University HealthSystem said, “Early screening for patients with hepatitis C, a leading risk factor for liver cancer, has directly contributed to increasing survival rates for patients living with liver cancer. When detected early, there are significantly more treatment options for liver cancer – in most cases, the earlier it is caught, the better the prognosis. This study points to the need to identify even more at-risk individuals through early screening programs to improve prognosis with potentially curative therapy.”
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