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Mortality from liver cirrhosis increased 65% over 17 years, study finds

Cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer

CNN —  

More Americans, especially young people, are dying of conditions related to liver cirrhosis, according to a new study.

After adjusting for age and other factors, the study – published Wednesday in the BMJ – found that deaths in the United States due to cirrhosis rose 65% and deaths from liver cancer doubled from 1999 to 2016. In that period, cirrhosis-related deaths increased for every ethnic group and for both men and women.

From 2009 to 2016, the greatest increase in death rate from cirrhosis was among people 25 to 34, according to Dr. Elliot Tapper, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan and first author on the paper.

Tapper cited a rise in binge-drinking among young people to account for the increase in cirrhosis-related mortality. To reduce these preventable deaths, he said, measures should be taken such as raising the price of alcohol and diagnosing cirrhosis using existing blood tests.

He said he had been treating more and more young people for cirrhosis and decided to conduct the study to see whether the trend held true nationwide.

“We were struck by how the current concept of who develops cirrhosis didn’t quite match what we were seeing,” he said. “It was really striking to us to have people that were younger than us in our clinic dying from cirrhosis.”

Cirrhosis, scarring of the liver, occurs when toxins such as alcohol or excess calories overwhelm the liver, triggering inflammation and eventually scarring.