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Lower Education Level Increases Risk of Liver Cancer Death

Liver cancer.

Liver cancer is the most rapidly rising cause of cancer death in the United States. Known risk factors for this disease include hepatitis C virus (HCV), obesity, diabetes, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. In addition, researchers have now discovered that death from liver cancer correlates with lower levels of education, especially for men.

In this study, published in Cancer, the scientists analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics for the years between 2000 to 2015 in order to evaluate liver death rate trends by education level and HCV infection status among individuals aged 25 to 74 years. Differences in liver cancer deaths were measured as a relative index of inequality by education.

Over the course of the years studied, per 100,000 people, the liver cancer death rate increased from 7.5 to 11.2 in men and from 2.8 to 3.8 in women. This increase was mostly shown in groups of individuals with a lower level of education. The educational disparities in women reached an all-time high in 2006; however, those levels stabilized and leveled off. For men, these levels continued to widen past 2006 until the study data ended in 2015.

"Classifying liver cancer deaths in HCV-related and HCV-unrelated groups allowed us to more thoroughly understand the recent pattern of liver cancer mortality," stated the study's lead author, Jiemin Ma, PhD, MHS, Strategic Director of Cancer Interventions Surveillance at the American Cancer Society. "To our knowledge, this study is among the first to examine the recent trends in liver cancer death rates by individual-level education and by HCV-infection status. Our findings underscore the need for enhanced and targeted efforts in lower socioeconomic groups to halt and reverse the undue growing burden of liver cancer."

Further studies need to be conducted to determine why lower levels of education are linked to increased liver cancer risk so that interventions can be developed to help combat this problem.

For More Information

Ma J, Siegel RL, Islami F, et al (2019). Temporal trends in liver cancer mortality by educational attainment in the United States, 2000-2015. Cancer. [Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1002/cncr.32023

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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