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Fatty liver disease can lead to cancer, say experts

By Shweta Sharma

Rampant downing of alcohol and increasing prevalence of obesity would in a few decades lead to patients with fatty liver disease requiring transplants surpassing those of hepatitis B and C, say experts.

“Due to vaccination for hepatitis B and effective medications now available for both hepatitis B and C, the incidence of liver failure due to them has been on the decline. Alcoholic and NAFL (non-alcoholic fatty liver) disease could also lead to cancer, and liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world,” Ravi Mohanka, chief surgeon and head of department, hepato-pancreato-biliary surgery and liver transplantation, Global Hospitals, Mumbai, told IANS.

He added that if the damage is not controlled at this stage by lifestyle changes, “it may progressively lead to liver cirrhosis, requiring a liver transplant”.

The liver is the second largest organ in one’s body, which is located under the rib cage on the right side, and performs many jobs in the body. It processes what one eats and drinks into energy and nutrients the body uses. The liver also removes harmful substances from the blood.

Representational picture:The Union Minister for Communications, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad addressing at the release of the postal stamp on “Liver Transplant”, in New Delhi on November 04, 2014. (PIB Photo)

Representational picture:The Union Minister for Communications, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad addressing at the release of the postal stamp on “Liver Transplant”, in New Delhi on November 04, 2014. (PIB Photo)

Experts said NAFL disease is now one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease, which could be caused by obesity, eating junk food, lack of exercise, diabetes and high cholesterol.

“It has been seen in various studies that nearly 20 percent of the general population suffers from NAFL. This figure increases to up to 80 percent in the obese and diabetics. Up to five percent of these can develop progressive disease,” Yogesh Batra, director and senior consultant, gastroenterology, BLK Super Specialty Hospital, told IANS.

“Hepatitis B carriers are there in two to four percent of the general population and hepatitis C is about 1.5 percent. Hence as the incidence of fatty liver increases progressively, patients of fatty liver requiring transplant may soon surpass those of hepatitis B and C,” he added.

Rajnish Monga, consultant gastroenterology and hepatology at Paras Hospitals, said that fatty liver is the accumulation of fat in the liver cells. He added that fatty liver may be associated with liver swelling (inflammation) in some patients leading to slow liver cell death, scarring, ultimately causing cirrhosis.

Explaining the diagnosis, Batra said ultrasound diagnoses the disease easily.

“Patients come either with non-specific pain and lethargy. Ultrasound diagnoses the disease easily. MRI is more specific, final diagnosis and classification is done by a liver biopsy,” he said.

While doctors said that the disease is not passed in generations, they pointed out that dietary patterns within families are usually the same.

“In a patient with end stage liver disease and life expectancy of less than one year the only viable option with long term survival is liver transplant. Unfortunately in India most of the liver transplants are by close relatives. Cadaveric donations are few with a long waiting time. Most good transplant centres have of post-transplant one year survival of more than 90 percent,” Monga said.(IANS)

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