One in four Finns already has a fatty liver that causes liver cancer.
Liver cancer caused by fatty liver is on the rise.
According to the Cancer Foundation, the number of patients with liver cancer has increased sixfold in Finland over the past fifty years.
– Cirrhosis of the liver is the most common cause of liver cancer. Cirrhosis can also occur as a result of non-alcoholic liver disease, a professor at the University of Helsinki Hannele Yki-Järvinen said in a foundation release earlier this year.
Every year, 600 get sick
Despite its prevalence, liver cancer is not one of the most common cancers.
In Finland, about 600 people get liver cancer every year. Two-thirds of them are men.
The morbidity increases with age, and most new cases occur in people around the age of 70.
Liver cancer has a poor prognosis, with eight percent of those living five years after becoming ill.
The cancer has been asymptomatic for a long time
According to cancer organizations, most liver cancers are asymptomatic for a long time. Often, symptoms do not appear until the tumor grows or spreads to nearby organs.
Typical symptoms are:
Upper abdominal pain
loss of appetite
Feeling of fulfillment
Advanced liver cancer can cause weight loss, fever, and jaundice.
Symptoms of liver cancer may also include itching due to an increase in bile acid levels in the blood.
Impaired liver function often results in the accumulation of fluid inside the abdominal cavity. Excessive fluid increases the circumference of the abdomen, which can feel tightening and painful.
Often underlying cirrhosis of the liver
Liver cancer rarely occurs in a healthy liver. Often the cause is cirrhosis of the liver or some other liver disease, Cancer Organizations says.
One in four Finns has a fatty liver. Fatty liver and subsequent cirrhosis can be the result of alcohol use but also of non-alcoholic origin. Non-alcoholic diseases are associated with unhealthy diet, overweight and especially waist obesity.
Fatty liver is not a disease for everyone. One in five gets a more severe inflammatory form of the disease, steatohepatitis, which can progress to cirrhosis of the liver over time.
– There is a mystery as to why some of the liver becomes inflamed, i.e. steatohepatitis, and why in some it progresses to fibrosis and cirrhosis, a specialist in internal medicine and gastroenterology Ville Männistö said earlier.
Fibrosis means that connective tissue is formed in the liver, which can further lead to hardening of the liver and cirrhosis of the liver – and at the same time increase the risk of liver cancer.