More people in the U.S. die of liver disease than is generally believed, according to a recent research paper by Sumeet Asrani, M.D., a Baylor Research Institute scientist and hepatology specialist.
“The main message of the paper,” Dr. Asrani said, “is that liver disease is common and liver-related mortality is underestimated. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2008 there were approximately 29,000 liver-related deaths.”
“But by our estimates there were actually 66,000 deaths. Between 1979 and 2008, instead of a reduction in liver-related mortality (38 percent), mortality was instead unchanged.”
Dr. Asrani’s paper, “Underestimation of Liver-Related Mortality in the United States,” has been selected by the editors of Gastroenterology as one of two clinical articles to highlight in the August issue and the corresponding issue of GI & Hepatology News, the official newspaper of the American Gastroenterological Association Institute.
The liver, the body’s largest internal organ, is a kind of filtration device. It removes harmful substances from the blood and also aids in digestion.
Diseases of the liver include some caused by viruses such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and others that can result from drug use, poisons or consumption of too much alcohol.
Cancer can also affect the liver, and people can inherit a liver disease such as hemochromatosis.
Dr. Asrani said an important cause of the additional deaths is an increase in viral hepatitis and liver cancers.
“Liver disease is the third or fourth leading cause of death among people age 45 to 64, and is especially underestimated in minorities,” he said.
“So while there is continued and appropriate emphasis on other chronic conditions such as heart disease in the community, being aware of the consequences of liver disease is also important.”
You can watch the video abstract of Dr. Asrani’s paper here: