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Liver cancer rise blamed on obesity

Liver cancer cases have tripled in the last 30 years due to a rise in obesity and alcohol consumption, according to figures.

There were 3,108 cases of cancer that originated in the liver in 2006, up from the 865 cases recorded in 1975. The rate of primary liver cancer almost tripled to 3.9 per 100,000 in 2006, from 1.4 in 1975.

Although cancer that has spread to the liver from elsewhere in the body - secondary or metastatic liver cancer - is relatively common, primary liver cancer used to be considered rare. Experts have cited a rise in drinking levels, obesity and hepatitis C, which all cause cirrhosis of the liver that can develop into primary cancer, as the reason for the increase.

"We are seeing more patients with cirrhosis and, in turn, more patients with primary liver cancer," said Cancer Research UK's professor of gastrointestinal cancer medicine at the University of Leeds, Matt Seymour.

"This is likely to continue. It might take between 20 and 40 years for liver cancer to develop after infection with hepatitis C," he added.

"So even if new cases of infection stopped, the number of cases of cancer would continue to rise for some years."

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Cancer Research UK