Posted on Jul 30, 2018, 10 p.m.
Increase in alcohol related liver cirrhosis deaths skyrocketed among younger adults highlighting new challenges in treatment and prevention, as published in the journal BMJ.
Within the USA liver disease deaths have jumped by 65% from 1999-2016 which disproportionately affects adults in the age group of 25-34 with the biggest victims and fatalities being highest among Caucasian, Hispanics, and American Indians; increases in deaths among younger populations was driven entirely by alcohol related liver disease cirrhosis. Researchers suggest that the data collected to form findings confirms that across the nation more and more young people are drinking themselves to death.
The disturbing shift in demographics experienced the highest average annual increase of cirrhosis in the age group of 25-34 was about 10.5% each year. Every year alcohol related deaths costs decades of lost life, broken families and lost economic productivity, plus medical care of those dying from cirrhosis cost billions of dollars.
The increase in liver deaths was unexpected to liver specialists after gains in fighting hepatitis C. Cirrhosis can be caused by fatty liver disease, alcohol abuse, or a virus such as hepatitis C. Liver deaths increases serves to point out new challenges in preventing cirrhosis deaths beyond that of hepatitis.
Mortality began to increase in 2009 due to cirrhosis, around the time of the recession leading to job loss which may offer as clue to cause of increase as there is a suspected connection between increased alcohol use and unemployment associated with the global financial crisis. 460,760 deaths were caused during the 7 year study period due to cirrhosis, with one third attributed to hepatocellular carcinoma and 11,073 of those lives being lost in 2016 alone due to liver cancer which was double the number of deaths in 1999.
Trends in liver deaths due to cirrhosis were studied by examining death certificate compiled by the CDC and Prevention’s Wide Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research Project. Such a rapid rise in liver deaths points out gaps in care and opportunities for prevention.
The investigation was conducted to determine trends in liver disease deaths and which groups were impacted most across the nation. Finding show that fewer Asians and Pacific Islanders died from liver cancer; places such as Kentucky, New Mexico, Alabama, and Arkansas were hit especially hard having the highest amounts of deaths; and state by state analysis showed cirrhosis mortality is improving only in Maryland.
Researchers suggest strategies such as higher and/or additional taxes on alcohol, minimum prices for alcohol and reducing marketing and advertising to help curb problem drinking as deaths due to alcohol related liver disease are entirely preventable. Previously higher alcohol cost have been linked with decreased alcohol related deaths.
Materials provided by Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan.
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Elliot B Tapper, Neehar D Parikh. Mortality due to cirrhosis and liver cancer in the United States, 1999-2016: observational study. BMJ, 2018; k2817 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.k2817