Heavy drinking by young people is leading to an alarming rise in liver cirrhosis cases, cirrhosis deaths are increasing sharply in women after having increased in men for some time, Professor Liam Donaldson says in his annual report.He adds that females are showing signs of permanent liver damage at an earlier age.
Cirrhosis - the permanent scarring and damage of the liver - is irreversible, although treatment can prevent it from getting worse.Among 35 to 44-year-olds, there has been an eight-fold increase in deaths among men, and seven-fold among women. Cirrhosis of the liver now kills 1,600 women a year, compared to 1,200 seven years ago - more than cervical cancer.
While some of this increase can be blamed on the side-effects of long-term infection with hepatitis B and C, Professor Donaldson says that the most "convincing explanation" is alcohol.
He says: "There is a clear need for a comprehensive approach, across and beyond government, to address the consequences of problematic drinking. Public awareness needs to be raised that certain patterns of heavy drinking are potentially dangerous in producing culmulative damage to the liver."
"Women are thought to be more susceptible and they get problems with alcohol earlier and quicker so they are more likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver for relatively small amounts of alcohol." Far more deaths are caused by patchy diagnosis and treatment of blood pressure, he says.