common form of liver cancer on the rise in rural America | Health Info

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By Steven Reinberg, Health Day reporter

(Health day)

TUESDAY, September 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Liver cancer is on the rise in rural America, but declining in cities, new research shows.

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer and the fastest growing cause of cancer death in the United States. It is increasing at an annual rate of nearly 6% in rural areas, approaching rates seen in cities, according to the study’s authors.

“Considering that one in five Americans live in a rural community, this study suggests that HCC is a critical and unrecognized public health problem affecting rural Americans,” said co-author Dr. Kali Zhou. She is a gastroenterologist / hepatologist at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

The rapid increase in rural areas includes men aged 60 to 69, blacks, and Native Americans / Alaska Natives who live in the South or in a very poor area.

In urban areas, meanwhile, HCC rates are falling among men and women, those 40 to 59 years old, Asian / Pacific islanders and people living in western states, the researchers said.

Other studies have shown that the increase in rural cases is not evident with other cancers. Lung, breast and colon cancer rates are falling in rural America.

The new study – published online recently in the journal Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology – examined a database of cases diagnosed between 1995 and 2016 in Americans over 20 years of age.

Of more than 310,000 cases of HCC, 85% were in urban areas and 15% in rural areas. Rates were similar from 1995 to 2009. But rates in urban areas started to slow in 2009, peaking around 2014.

In 2016, however, the number of cases in rural America was up 218% from 1995, compared to 118% in urban areas, investigators found.

Researchers suspect that several factors may be contributing to rural trends.

“Obesity and alcohol consumption, two risk factors for liver cancer, may be more prevalent in rural populations,” Zhou said in an academic press release. In addition, people in rural areas may not have the same access to health care as city dwellers, she added.

In previous research, Zhou has shown that rural Americans are also more likely to have advanced liver cancer and worse survival rates than those in urban communities.

She said she hoped the new findings would prompt further examination of the health care needs of rural populations, as well as more investment in medical resources.

“With the growing disparity between rural and urban areas in the incidence of HCC, such interventions are essential to better understand and address this growing inequality,” Zhou said.

SOURCE: Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, press release, September 15, 2021

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