When it comes to cancer, a large part of the outlook has to do with the type of cancer you are diagnosed with. And sadly, the five-year survival rate when you are talking about liver cancer is only 20 percent. Worst of all, it seems to be on the rise.
In the short span of 2009 to 2013, doctors diagnosed liver cancer in 7.7 people out of every 100,000, and this figure has been steadily on the rise since the mid-1970s. And as if things couldn’t get any worse, the death rate is rising faster than for any other cancer — it is one of America’s leading causes of cancer death. Between 2010 and 2014, it stood at 6.3 people per 100,000.
According to Dr. Jack Jacoub, medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in California, liver cancer is “the second most common cancer killer in the world.”
It was found that the following risk factors significantly contribute to liver cancer:
– hepatitis (caused by either the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus)
– type 2 diabetes
– metabolic disorders and excess body weight
– alcohol consumption
– tobacco smoking
Dr. Anton Bilchik, a professor of surgery and chief of gastrointestinal research at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California, said: “the reason for the increase in primary liver cancer is largely related to the obesity epidemic that we have going on in this country.”
“Whereas Hepatitis C used to be the most common cause of liver cancer, the most common cause now is related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,” he noted.
Jacoub, meanwhile, believes that hepatitis still poses the greatest risk.
“There is a very big spiking in hepatitis C infection over the past few decades. And that is the predominant risk factor in the United States for liver cancer,” he said.
Jacoub also suggested another risk factor. He cautioned that “anyone who has hereditary iron overload symptoms,” such as hemochromatosis, is at risk.
“[This] iron scenario causes iron overloading of the liver and [that] causes inflammation and scarring and then … cirrhosis,” he said.
“Whenever cirrhosis develops, you’re immediately at risk for liver cancer,” Jacoub explained.
Jacoub stresses that “It’s important to know your risk profile.”
And Bilchik pointed out, “If you think about it, primary liver cancer is largely preventable because most of the causes of liver cancer are related to lifestyle.”