Liver cancer cases have doubled in Scotland

2nd April 2021

liver cancerA new study has shown that the rate of people dying from liver cancer in Scotland has doubled over the past two decades. The study also showed that over the same period Scotland has had the highest number of confirmed deaths from liver cancer per head of population out of any of the four UK nations.

Dr Tom Bird, group leader at the Beatson Institute and Honorary Consultant Hepatologist at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, co-authored the paper. He said:

'Our analysis of this data is showing that liver cancer has become a much more common type of cancer in the UK.

'Whilst there are signs that survival with liver cancer is improving, it still claims far too many lives each year.'
Dr Tom Bird

Dr Bird continued: 'A major factor driving this long-term rise in cancer cases is fat within the liver related to obesity. We expect the trend to get worse, as the pandemic means that fewer people have come forward with symptoms and people's weights and drinking behaviour have been affected too. I see it every day, with more and more patients coming to me with later stages of the disease.

'But it's important to remember that obesity, and the liver diseases related to it, are both preventable and reversible. That's why we need new public health measures to tackle Scotland's weight problem and reduce the risk of developing cancer in the long-term.'

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's prevention expert, who is based at the University of Edinburgh, said: 'It's shocking that so many people in Scotland are being diagnosed and dying of liver cancer.

'It should worry us all that liver cancer rates have risen over the last few decades in Scotland. Sadly, it is preventable factors like being overweight or obese, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption that increase the risk.

liver cancer 3'When it comes to stemming the tide of disease caused by carrying too much weight, the next Scottish Government has the power to make a difference.

'The pandemic understandably stalled progress on new laws to ban the harmful supermarket junk food multibuy offers which encourage us to stock up on unhealthy items that provide no nutritional value. But it's clear from this study that action is still urgently needed to help us all lead healthier lives.

'This is why the next Scottish Government must bring forward legislation to ban supermarket price promotions on junk food at the earliest opportunity.'
Professor Linda Bauld

'It's vital we see action to help us all keep a healthier weight. The health of future generations depends on it.'

This research has also been covered in a news report on the Cancer Research UK website: Liver cancer rates in the UK are highest amongst men in Scotland

The study can be found here: Burton A, Tataru D, Driver RJ, Bird TG, Huws D, Wallace D, Cross TJS, Rowe IA, Alexander G, Marshall A. Primary liver cancer in the UK: Incidence, incidence-based mortality, and survival by subtype, sex, and nation. JHEP Rep. 2021;3:100232. 

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