Liver disease deaths rise 25 per cent in decade

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The Independent Online

Deaths from liver disease have hit record levels after rising 25 per cent in a decade. The increase in obesity, high rates of alcohol consumption and the growth of hepatitis are believed to be behind the rise.

The first report from the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network, which analyses trends in death rates and costs of care, says there were 11,575 deaths in 2009 compared with 9,231 in 2001. Although deaths from heart disease and cancer are much higher, one in 10 of all deaths in people in their 40s is from liver disease.

The finding follows figures published last December which showed a 60 per cent rise in alcoholic liver disease in young people over seven years.

Experts said people in their twenties and thirties were being admitted to hospital with terminal liver conditions. The latest report says, although liver disease has a variety of causes, men are disproportionately affected because they drink more alcohol. Alcohol accounts for less than a third of liver deaths among both sexes but over 40 per cent among men.

The finding will increase pressure on the Government to introduce a minimum price for alcohol to reduce consumption. Professor Martin Lombard, national clinical director for liver disease, said: "This report makes for stark reading. The key drivers are all preventable, such as alcohol, obesity, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. We must tackle this problem sooner rather than later." Liver disease death rates are highest in the North, where almost half are alcohol-related, and lowest in the South. The worst affected area is the North-west with 1,899 deaths.

Professor Julia Verne, clinical lead for the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network, said: "This report provides the first summary of key facts, on which future discussions can be built. It is crucial that commissioners and providers of health and social care services know the prevalence of liver disease in their local areas, so that more people can receive the care they need to allow them to die in the place of their choosing."

Cancer Study

Aspirin, the most versatile drug in the pharmacy, which is already known to prevent cancer, may also be an effective treatment for the disease once it has started.

Taken daily by millions to protect against heart disease and strokes, aspirin also prevents diabetes, dementia, pregnancy complications and pain. Now researchers have found it may halt the spread of cancer.

An analysis of five larger randomised trials of people who took a daily low-dose aspirin showed that among those who developed cancer it reduced its spread to distant organs by 40-50 per cent. The study is one of three published in The Lancet and Lancet Oncology.

Aspirin carries a small risk of causing stomach bleeds, but this falls with long-term use.