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'25% rise' in liver disease deaths

Deaths from liver disease in England have jumped 25% with alcohol the major cause, men the biggest victims and fatalities more prevalent in the North, new statistics have revealed.

The figures, which one expert described as "stark reading", are certain to fuel further debate on how to tackle the problem of binge drinking.

The first ever National End of Life Care Intelligence Network report said the vast majority of the fatalities were people under 70, with more victims now in their 40s. But obesity, hepatitis C and hepatitis B have also helped lead to the increase in total liver disease deaths between 2001 and 2009.

The findings are in contrast to other major causes of death - such as heart disease - which have been declining in recent years. In 2001, 9,231 people died of the condition, but by 2009 it was 11,575 people, with 60% being men and 40% women.

Although numbers of deaths due to cancer, vascular or respiratory disease are still much greater, liver disease disproportionately kills people at a much younger age. A striking 90% of people who die from liver disease are under 70, the report revealed.

More than one in 10 deaths of people in their 40s are from liver disease. When measured as "years of life lost", liver disease is much more prominent, the report authors claimed. Most of these deaths were from alcohol-related liver disease, which accounted for over a third (37%) of all liver disease deaths. But the prevalence of deaths from alcohol-related liver disease varied greatly between males (41% of liver disease deaths) and females (30% of liver disease deaths).

Alcohol-related liver disease was also more common in the most deprived areas (44% of liver disease deaths) than the least deprived areas (28% of liver disease deaths). The North West is the region with the highest death rate from liver disease, according to the report, called Deaths from liver disease: implications for end of life care in England.

Using the age standardised mortality rate (2001-09), the area had 24 deaths per 100,000 of which 11.4 were from alcohol-related liver disease. Next came the North East at 21.9 deaths per 100,000, of which 10.1 were from alcohol-related liver disease and London was third highest with 20.2 deaths per 100,000, of which 6.5 were from alcohol-related liver disease.

Professor Martin Lombard, national clinical director for liver disease, said: "This report makes for stark reading about the needs of people dying with liver disease. Over 70% end up dying in hospital and this report is timely in helping us understand the challenges in managing end of life care for this group of people."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "These figures are a stark reminder of the preventable damage that eating too much and drinking too much alcohol can do. Urgent action is needed to halt this trend. Our upcoming liver strategy will set out our plans on this issue, drawing on our plans to tackle problem drinking and obesity."


From Belfast Telegraph