An entirely new risk group for liver cancer is found
For years we have known that there is a strong link between obesity and liver cancer, and it is possibly due to the high fat content in the body. And because of this, people with obesity are often considered at risk for liver cancer. A recent research conducted by Monash University and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Australia confirms that obese people are at risk for liver cancer, but based on an entirely different reason.
The new finding
The research uncovers that liver cancer can develop in obese people without having the progression of NASH or cirrhosis.
The common course of liver cancer progression would normally be from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to NASH, cirrhosis, and then liver cancer. But the research revealed that liver cancer in people with obesity does not seem to be reliant on the development of NASH or cirrhosis.
That means liver diseases in obese people can directly go from NAFLD to liver cancer without showing any signs or symptoms.
In the research, it was revealed that the proteins that drive the progression of liver cancer in the obesity-NASH-cirrhosis pathway are different from the proteins that drive the development of liver cancer without NASH or cirrhosis in people with obesity.
The dangerous implication behind
In the current American and European surveillance programs for Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, regular monitoring of HCC is only given to individuals with cirrhosis. Even though obesity is a risk factor for liver cancer, obese patients without cirrhosis are not considered as a priority because of the presumed course of liver cancer progression.
With the new discovery, it means that a group of people with a potentially high risk for liver cancer are not receiving the necessary screenings that they should have. That is to say, obese patients might develop liver cancer without any prior warnings.
What can we do?
We must first understand that fatty liver disease and NASH are silent diseases, meaning that they often show few or no symptoms before a very late stage.
Given the lack of screening programs for liver cancer for people who do not have cirrhosis, people with obesity should be aware of their liver condition and maintain their liver in good shape as early as possible. Reducing liver fat content and inflammation level and also good management of diabetes can help stop the progression of NAFLD. Patients should bear in mind that liver problems at the early stage are highly treatable.
Most important of all, losing weight and eating a healthy diet are the best ways to manage the situation for people with obesity.
- Cell, https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(18)31304-7?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0092867418313047%3Fshowall%3Dtrue, (Accessed Date: 2018-11-01)
- Medical Xpress, https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-10-clues-link-obesity-liver-cancerand.html, (Accessed Date: 2018-11-01)
- * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.