Alcohol's role in the rising global burden of liver cirrhosis and cancer
13.05.2023 - In a recent study published in Hepatology International, researchers have shed light on the alarming global impact of alcohol consumption on liver disease, notably cirrhosis and liver cancer. The study, led by Liu, Y., Sun, Z., Wang, Q., and others, analyzed data from 1990 to 2019 and made projections up to 2044.
The study found that while the number of deaths and Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) - a measure of overall disease burden - from cirrhosis and liver cancer attributable to alcohol use have increased, the Age-Standardized Death Rate (ASDR) and age-standardized DALY rates have been decreasing. This means that although more people are dying and living with disability due to these diseases, the rate of these deaths and disabilities has been decreasing when adjusted for age.
However, the study also revealed significant regional differences. For instance, Central Asia and Eastern Europe have the highest rates of death and disease burden for cirrhosis attributable to alcohol consumption. In contrast, developed regions had a higher burden of liver cancer attributable to alcohol use, while underdeveloped regions had a higher burden of cirrhosis.
The study also highlighted the impact of alcohol use on different age groups. Cirrhosis-related deaths and DALYs attributed to alcohol use increased in all age groups globally over time. However, it was highest in the 40–64 age group, accounting for more than 50% of all. The mortality of alcohol-associated cirrhosis was most increased in the 65+ age group, whereas the DALYs rate was highest in the 40–64 age group.
There were also significant differences between males and females. In 2019, 77.30% of the deaths from cirrhosis attributable to alcohol use occurred in males, compared to 22.70% in females. In addition, the number of DALYs of cirrhosis attributable to alcohol use in males was 4.5 times higher than that in females.
The study predicts that if no further intervention exists, the number of deaths and DALYs from cirrhosis and liver cancer attributable to alcohol will continue to increase over the next 25 years, especially among men. By 2044, the number of male deaths from cirrhosis attributable to alcohol use is projected to reach 0.99 million. Deaths from liver cancer attributable to alcohol use would also increase rapidly, reaching 0.23 million, especially in males.
These findings underscore the urgent need for effective national policies and interventions to address the specific risks and impacts of alcohol use across different age groups and genders. The researchers recommend raising taxes and prices on alcohol, raising the national legal age for drinking, and regulating the alcohol industry's intervention in alcohol policy.
The study also highlights the need for plans and measures to monitor and treat chronic liver disease in underdeveloped regions to reduce the burden of cirrhosis and liver cancer ascribed to alcohol.
In conclusion, the study provides a comprehensive overview of the global burden of cirrhosis and liver cancer attributable to alcohol use, revealing troubling trends and making predictions that call for urgent action.
Full study on Hepatology International