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Trust urges liver screening rethink

Early screening for liver disease - often caused by obesity or alcohol - could save the NHS £600 million a year, a charity has said.

The British Liver Trust urged the Government to overhaul funding into liver disease by putting more money into early detection, at a time when liver damage can still be reversed.

If no action is taken, the charity predicts spend on combating liver disease will reach £1 billion a year within the next decade.

Liver disease is the fifth biggest - and fastest-growing - killer in the UK but a lack of obvious symptoms means it can be diagnosed at a late stage.

Figures from the charity show that a third of people in the UK with liver disease have o besity-related non alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The condition is behind a growing number of liver transplants and the problem is expected to get worse as obesity continues to rise.

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: "Overindulging in fatty food too frequently, having an alcoholic drink every night and not making time for regular exercise are major contributing factors for liver disease.

"Having a dry January, although a good start, is not good enough if you then drink excessively for the rest of the year.

"To repair the liver and keep it healthy, people need to take at least two to three consecutive days off alcohol every week, and drink within the recommended limits at other times, affecting a permanent lifestyle change."

Alcoholic liver disease was responsible for around 66% of all alcohol-related deaths in 2011, up from 64% in 2010.

Another contributor to liver disease is the hepatitis C infection. An estimated 216,000 people in the UK are infected with hepatitis C.

Mr Langford said if liver disease is caught early, the liver has a chance to repair itself.

He added: "Everyone is affected differently, and symptoms can be almost unrecognisable until the damage is beyond repair - the Government needs to take this seriously.

"The cost to the nation could be reduced by £600 million and more than one million lives could be saved if we invest in early diagnosis."

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