Fatty livers increase risk of most cancers

Rates of most types of cancer are higher in adults with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to research presented recently at The Liver Meeting, held by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in San Francisco.

Researchers followed 4,782 NAFLD patients and 14,441 age- and sex-matched controls for a median of eight years. During this time, 16 per cent of NAFLD patients and 12 per cent of controls were diagnosed with malignancies.

The incidence of all types of cancer was higher in people with NAFLD compared with controls but the increased risk was highest with liver, stomach, pancreatic and uterine cancer.

“These data provide an important ‘hierarchical’ overview of the most important malignancy risks associated with NAFLD. Liver cancer had the highest increase in relative risk, and this was not a surprising finding,” says study author Alina Allen, assistant professor of medicine, Mayo Clinic.

“However, the 2.5-fold higher risk of stomach and pancreatic cancer are novel data that the medical community should be aware of. Future studies should further examine this association to determine if screening methods should be implemented in this population.”

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