All cancer death rates are dropping… except liver cancer. Meet the culprits: hepatitis C, alcohol, fatty liver
For just a minute, we're going to move away from poop habits and talk about protecting your liver. This is especially relevant as I am currently at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC working on the liver transplant service. Rounding on the transplant hepatology floor, I am shocked by how many patients are admitted with decompensated cirrhosis and liver cancer, some of whom are hopeful and eligible for a liver transplant… and many of whom are not. The scary thing is how many of these patients are only in their 50s and 60s and with young children. The reason most of these patients developed liver disease was due to drinking alcohol, not treating (or knowing they have) hepatitis B or C, or the newest and scariest reason- fatty liver. Hepatitis C is the most common reason for liver transplant in the US, and a 2015 article showed that fatty liver is the second. Then just this year, it was announced that fatty liver surpassed hepatitis C as the top reason for liver transplant in people under 50 years old.
2017 American Cancer Society statistics just published that liver cancer is the ONLY cancer with an increasing death rate. The scariest thing is, liver cancer is not an easy cancer to treat, especially if diagnosed at a later stage. In fact, the 5-year survival is 17.5%.
Therefore PREVENTION is KEY! #protectyourself with these tips:
- DRINK COFFEE! Enjoy your daily cup of coffee a day! Coffee protects you from cancer in many ways: blocking the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) that tumors need to survive, improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the risk of diabetes which is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer, reduces inflammation, and reduces DNA damage that may lead to mutations and cancer. Make sure to drink it black (NO SUGAR, NO DAIRY!) to avoid extra calories and negating the positive effects!
- LOSE WEIGHT! Higher BMI has been linked to liver cancer. Extra fat directly affects hormones such as insulin, insulin- like growth factors and estrogens, creating an environment that promotes cancer. Fat tissue stimulates inflammation. Obesity is also a risk factor for fatty liver which may progress to cirrhosis and cancer. Check out my #feedyourgut eating tips to lose weight.
- IF YOU HAVE VIRAL HEPATITIS, GET TREATED! Hepatitis C is curable with oral medication. And hepatitis B is controllable. And if you don't know, get tested! Everyone born between 1945-1965 should be screened for hepatitis C and cured.
- EAT FISH! Higher fish consumption may decrease risk of liver cancer, perhaps due to n-3 fatty acid intake as the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) present in fatty fish and fish oils, inhibit carcinogenesis.
- EXERCISE! Higher levels of physical activity may decrease the risk of liver cancer due to the beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity, weight loss, and decreasing inflammation. Check out the move section and get moving! Hello, yoga!
- EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL. Moderation is key. 3 drinks a day has been proven to have a clear relationship with cancer. If you have cirrhosis, then avoid alcohol entirely. FYI: Alcohol consumption is graded by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as carcinogenic to humans. Alcohol is also associated with increased fat in the body and especially in your liver (fatty liver) that also leads to cancer.
- SMOKING. Especially if you have Hepatitis B and/or C or drink alcohol. But seriously, smoking is GROSS.
- AFLATOXINS. A product of the Aspergillus fungus and a common contaminant of cereals (grains) and peanuts in Africa/Asia is a cause of liver cancer. Conclusion: don't move to Asia and live off grains and peanuts.