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Alcohol-related Cirrhosis Deaths Soar Among Young Adults

Alcohol-related Cirrhosis Deaths Soar Among Young Adults

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  • Deaths among young adults due to alcohol-related cirrhosis were high across all states from the West to the East except in Maryland
  • Cirrhosis causes scarring of liver tissue and is the primary cause of chronic liver failure or end-stage liver disease
  • The increase in liver deaths highlights new challenges in preventing cirrhosis deaths that are caused beyond hepatitis.

Deaths due to end-stage liver disease caused primarily by alcohol-related cirrhosis jumped by 65 percent among young adults, says a new study. The deaths were seen mostly among adults aged between 25-34, who were white, American Indian and Hispanic, and who belonged to all 52 states but one between 1999-2016.

The data is published in the journal BMJ.

Alcohol-related Cirrhosis

Liver specialist Elliot B. Tapper, M.D., and study co-author Neehar Parikh, M.D., M.S., who collected national data to conduct the study say "more young people are drinking themselves to death in communities across the country."


Dr. Tapper has witnessed the disturbing shift in demographics among the patients with liver failure he treats at Michigan Medicine.

"Each alcohol-related death means decades of lost life, broken families and lost economic productivity," says Tapper, a member of the University of Michigan Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and health services researcher at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. "In addition, medical care of those dying from cirrhosis costs billions of dollars."

Cirrhosis is the scarring of liver tissue and is caused mainly due to alcohol consumption, hepatitis C, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Dr. Tapper says that even after using several strategies including antiviral medications that might one day eradicate hepatitis C infection, there was still a rise in liver deaths indicating that more work needs to be done in the field of non-hepatitis C-mediated cirrhosis. Hepatitis C is a major liver threat seen in Baby Boomers.

There was also a positive connection seen between deaths due to alcohol-related cirrhosis and the global financial crisis that happened in 2009. Losing jobs and homes might have led to increased alcohol use during that period, although this might need to be confirmed.

Deaths due to Alcohol-related Cirrhosis

In this study, the research team wanted to determine trends in liver disease deaths due to cirrhosis and to find out the most impacted groups across the country.

To conduct the investigation, the researchers examined death certificates compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research project.

Adults in the age group of 25 to 34 who were alcohol consumers experienced the highest average annual increase (10.5 %) in cirrhosis deaths entirely caused by alcohol-related liver disease, the authors say.

There were a total of 460,760 deaths during the seven-year study period; about one-third or 150,000 of the deaths were due to hepatocellular carcinoma, a common type of liver cancer that is often caused by cirrhosis.

The number of lives lost to liver cancer in 2016 alone amounted to 11,073 which was double the number of deaths in 1999.

Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and New Mexico, recorded the highest numbers of cirrhosis deaths; Maryland was the only showed that showed an improvement in cirrhosis mortality.

Fatalities occurred mostly among Whites, Amercian Indians and Hispanics and least among Asians and Pacific Islanders.

"The rapid rise in liver deaths underscores gaps in care and opportunities for prevention," says Parikh, study co-author and liver specialist at Michigan Medicine.

The authors say that deaths due to alcohol-related liver disease can be entirely prevented by strategies such as:
  • Taxes on alcohol
  • Raising the minimum prices for alcohol and
  • Reducing marketing and advertising related to alcohol
Studies have associated higher alcohol costs with decreased alcohol-related deaths.

Patients with cirrhosis feel abdominal pain, loss of appetite, tiredness, weight loss and spider-like blood vessels found slightly beneath the skin surface.

It is essential to manage cirrhosis with a healthy lifestyle and medications to prevent further liver damage.

References :
  1. Alcohol-Related Cirrhosis Deaths Skyrocket in Young Adults - (https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/lab-report/alcohol-related-cirrhosis-deaths-skyrocket-young-adults)
  2. Cirrhosis of the Liver - (https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/diseases-of-the-liver/cirrhosis/information-for-the-newly-diagnosed)

Source: Medindia

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