Texas is the nation’s liver cancer capital

Texas has the highest number of new cases of liver cancer in the nation, the highest age-adjusted incidence rate and the highest liver cancer death rate, and the causes are more complicated than you think so.

In a world of declining cancer rates and increasing survival rates, liver cancer is headed in the wrong direction. It is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide and one of the top 10 cancer deaths in the United States. Over the past 15 years, liver cancer has seen the highest increase in deaths of any solid tumor. Experts predict it could be the third deadliest cancer in the United States by 2035.

About 25,000 men and 11,000 women get liver cancer each year, and about 19,000 men and 9,000 women die from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Liver cancer is caused by advanced liver disease, but risk factors for liver disease are not limited to alcohol consumption and hepatitis C. Fatty liver disease is on the rise, often leading to cancer. Fatty liver disease is caused by obesity and diabetes, and Texas has some of the highest rates of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes in the nation.

According to data from UT Southwestern, the incidence rate of liver cancer in Texas is 10.5 new cases per 100,000 population, while the national rate is only 7.2. North Texas is significantly worse than the national average at 9.2 new cases per 100,000, but still better than Texas as a whole.

Data Courtesy: UTSW

A review of liver cancer incidence rates in North Texas for individual racial and ethnic groups reveals an even more pressing situation. Hispanic North Texans are more than twice as likely to have liver cancer, while Black and Asian/Pacific Islander North Texans are also higher than the regional average. North Texas whites least likely to have liver cancer at lower rates in US

Data Courtesy: UTSW

The pandemic hasn’t helped, with isolation leading to increased alcohol consumption and less exercise. It’s too early to see the impact of pandemic behaviors on liver cancer rates, but with the trend already going in the wrong direction, these behaviors are increasing risk.

Liver disease is partly the result of social determinants of health such as education, poverty, access to healthy foods and quality exercise options. Texas also has the highest uninsured rate in the nation, with rising uninsured rates in the state’s Hispanic population. Lack of insurance often results in the absence of a medical home to help patients control chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes.

“This is again a cancer, like many diseases, that disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities and people of low socioeconomic status,” says Dr. Amit Singal, professor of internal medicine at the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases, Medical Director of the Liver Tumor Program and Chief of Hepatology at UT Southwestern.

UT Southwestern has made an effort to reverse the trend of liver cancer. The medical center will lead an enhanced screening initiative with multiple sites in the area. The National Cancer Institute-funded program will identify biomarkers in the blood to improve risk assessment and early detection of the most common form of liver cancer. Finding biomarkers in the blood to detect cancers earlier has become a big business in the healthcare industry, with Irving-based Caris Life Sciences receiving more than $1 billion in investment in recent years. .

The 5-year NCI grant will fund a clinical validation center that hopes to use the improved screening technique to catch the disease earlier. Currently, liver cancer is detected by abdominal ultrasound, which misses about one in three early-stage liver tumours. It often requires an additional appointment after the primary care visit, but the new test can be done with a blood draw that can be done during a regular check-up, improving both accuracy and convenience. Detecting cancer early can increase survival rates by 500%, Singal says.

Singal and his team are excited about the opportunities to improve screening. Although detection is useful for survival, the best defense is to avoid excessive alcohol consumption, obesity and diabetes.

“Liver cancer hasn’t gotten as much press, but I think it’s a cancer that we’re going to hear more and more about,” Singal says. “It will lead to the importance of healthy behaviors to hopefully prevent liver disease and prevent this cancer. For people with underlying liver disease, be sure to consult with their health care provider to determine if they are at risk for liver cancer. If so, get involved in these liver cancer screening programs.


Will Maddox

Will is the editor of CEO magazine and editor of D CEO Healthcare. He wrote about health care…

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