More Young Adults are Dying From Alcohol-Caused Liver Disease
Over the past few years, more young adults, are dying of alcohol-related diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. A new study in the BMJ, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan studied death certificate data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 to 2016. During this time period, almost 500,000 Americans died from cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease that caused by irreversible scarring of the essential organ until it fails completely. More than a third of those 500,000 killed from this disease were also found to have hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer that can be caused by cirrhosis.
The troubling part of this study is researchers found that when comparing the figures from 1999 to 2016, the annual rate of cirrhosis deaths jumped by 65 %, while liver cancer-related deaths doubled. This increase was even substantially larger when compared to other leading causes of death. The study found that:
“Mortality due to cirrhosis has been increasing in the US since 2009. Driven by deaths due to alcoholic cirrhosis, people aged 25-34 have experienced the greatest relative increase in mortality. White Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans experienced the greatest increase in deaths from cirrhosis. Mortality due to cirrhosis is improving in Maryland but worst in Kentucky, New Mexico, and Arkansas.”
Alcohol and the virus hepatitis B and C are the main causes of cirrhosis of the liver, amongst many others. According to physicians, it only takes about 10 years of heavy drinking to lead to developing cirrhosis. While analyzing the data, scientists found that the annual death rate was much higher for younger ages by an average of 10 % each year from 2009 to 2016. According to Elliot Tapper, the lead author of the study, “This wasn’t something we had been prepared for in our training.”
Tapper goes on to say, “We have to understand how best to treat and manage addiction, but at the same time, we think policies that limit the availability or ability to abuse alcohol are worth exploring. For example, why are some states particularly hard hit compared to others? So a natural experiment would be to see if differences in price or state-based alcohol taxes might play a role. That’s probably a good first step.”
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