Having a high Body Mass Index (BMI), increased waist circumference and type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer, a study shows.
The American Cancer Society has revealed that men have a 38 per cent increased risk of liver cancer for every five-point BMI increase; women have a 25 per cent increased risk.
There are roughly 6,000 new diagnoses of liver cancer in the UK every year, and cases have increased by more than 50 per cent in the last 10 years.
Symptoms of the disease do not become evident until it has progressed significantly, which means that cases are often caught relatively late.
People with type 2 diabetes can reduce their risk of cancer by eating a balanced diet, being a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise. Giving up smoking and limiting alcohol intake can also be beneficial.
In this new study, NCI researchers investigated links between obesity-related parameters and the rise in liver cancer in the US.
Data was pooled from 14 separate studies involving a total of 1.57 million participants. In each study, questionnaires were completed detailing participants’ weight, height, alcohol intake and other cancer-related risks. None of the participants had cancer before the studies.
A total of 2,162 participants developed liver cancer, of which 6.5 per cent had type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes patients were 2.61 times more likely to be diagnosed, and the risk increased for higher BMI and waist circumference.
“We found that each of these three factors was associated, robustly, with liver cancer risk,” said lead author Dr Peter Campbell, a director at the American Cancer Society. “This adds substantial support to liver cancer being on the list of obesity-associated cancers.
“For adults with type 2 diabetes, their risk of developing liver cancer is more than doubled relative to those who do not have type 2 diabetes mellitus, according to this study.”
While the study does not show that increased prevalence of liver cancer is solely due to obesity, it demonstrates that it is likely to play a significant role.
Senior investigator Katherine A. McGlynn added: “From a public health perspective, these results are very important because obesity and type 2 diabetes, unfortunately, are common conditions in the population.

“While some other well-described risk factors, such as hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus, are associated with increased risks of liver cancer, these factors are much less common than are obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

The findings have been published in the journal Cancer Research.

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