Screening call as liver deaths soar
Deaths from liver disease have risen 400% in the last 40 years, according to a health charity which is calling for early screening.
The British Liver Trust has called on the Government to launch a nationwide awareness campaign about the "ticking time-bomb", saying early diagnosis could save the NHS as much as £600 million a year.
Andrew Langford, chief executive of the charity, said: "If we do nothing, we will continue to see ever increasing rates of liver damage and early death. The average age of death from liver disease is 57, that's over 20 years lower than deaths from cancer, stroke and heart disease - liver disease is now the third most common cause of premature death."
At an event at the House of Commons to mark the launch of the Love You Liver campaign, Luciana Berger MP, shadow minister for public health, said: "As an MP in the North West, one of the areas hardest hit by liver damage, I have seen the devastating effects liver disease causes.
"This campaign puts pressure on the Government to do everything it can to stop the tragedy of deaths from liver disease; many of which could have been prevented if they were detected earlier."
Drinking alcohol, being obese and contracting hepatitis can all be factors causing the disease, which killed 16,087 people in the UK in 2008, according to the latest figures on the charity's website.
Mr Langford added: " Most people think that a glass of wine or pint of beer a night or a couple of takeaways a week won't do much harm - when in fact drinking even just a bit too much alcohol every day and eating unhealthy food are major contributing factors for liver damage.
"We are all affected differently and the symptoms are almost undetectable in many cases until it is too late. This is a serious health situation. More than one million lives could be saved if we invest in early diagnosis."
The charity has set up an online early warning screening test, at www.loveyourliver.org.uk.