RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — One in three Americans are considered obese. Obesity puts us all at risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and numerous other diseases.
A new study shows that liver cancer may also be tied to underlying obesity and diabetes.
- How common is liver cancer?
Liver cancer is the sixth-most common type of cancer in Americans. In the United States, approximately eight adults out of 100,000 will develop liver cancer in a given year.
Its incidence has tripled since the 1970s, along with the average size of American bodies.
Obesity levels are at an all-time high and if current trends continue, nearly 50 percent of Americans will be obese by the year 2030.
Liver cancer is deadly. The prognosis after diagnosis is very grim.
- What exactly did the study show us?
A large study has found that body mass index, waist circumference and diabetes are all associated with an increased risk for liver cancer. Researchers studied data on nearly 1.5 million participants and they found that being overweight increased the relative risk for liver cancer by between 21 percent and 142 percent as B.M.I. increased.
For each 2-inch increase in waist circumference, the risk of liver cancer increased by 8 percent. Those with type 2 diabetes had more than double the risk of liver cancer, even among the non-obese.
But we must remember that while the study found an association between obesity and liver cancer, it doesn’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship
- What do you think is the reason for this association?
Many scientists think that most cancers are associated with inflammation. Obesity and diabetes are pro-inflammatory states. When we are obese and have type 2 diabetes our insulin levels are very high and other inflammatory mediators are also elevated in the blood. When we lose weight, often type 2 diabetes disappears and inflammatory markers return to normal.
- What can we do to help reduce our risk for liver cancer?
Ideally, we must maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce our body weight. Avoiding pro- inflammatory states such as type 2 diabetes is important as well. Other risk factors for liver cancer include alcohol use and hepatitis.
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