Metabolic syndrome may increase the risk of primary liver cancer

Given that approximately one-third of adults in USA have metabolic syndrome, the study findings could have implications for the future incidence of the most common types of liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) are the two most common histology types of primary liver cancer. Scientists have confirmed that metabolic syndrome, which is defined as the co-occurrence of at least three of the five conditions (raised blood pressure, elevated waist circumference, low HDL or "good" cholesterol, raised triglyceride levels and raised fasting plasma glucose levels) and which increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes, may also increase the risk of the two most common types of liver cancer.

According to data presented at the AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2011, held in Orlando, USA from 2 to 6 April, approximately one-third of the USA population has metabolic syndrome. Researchers also presented that liver cancer incidence has been rising since the 1980s in the USA. The prognosis for liver cancer is only marginally better than the prognosis for pancreatic cancer, with a five-year survival of approximately 10%. Prognosis is more favourable, however, when liver cancers are diagnosed at early stages when they are small and localized to the liver.

All persons aged 65 years and older diagnosed with histologically confirmed HCC and ICC between 1993 and 2005 were identified in the SEER-Medicare linked database. The cases were compared to a 5% sample of individuals residing in the same geographic regions of the SEER registries. The prevalences of metabolic syndrome and other risk factors for HCC (HBV, HCV, unspecified viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, unspecified cirrhosis, biliary cirrhosis, hemochromatosis, Wilson's disease, smoking) and ICC (biliary cirrhosis, cholangitis, cholelithiasis, choledochal cysts, HBV, HCV, unspecified viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, non-specified cirrhosis, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, smoking) were compared among the persons who developed cancer and the persons who did not.

Researchers identified 3649 cases of HCC and 743 cases of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. They compared the medical history of these patients with the medical histories of 195 953 cancer-free adults. Statistical analyses showed that the persons with liver cancer were significantly more likely than cancer-free persons to have a prior history of metabolic syndrome: 37.1% of patients with HCC had pre-existing metabolic syndrome, as did 29.7% of patients with ICC; only 17.1% of the cancer-free adults had metabolic syndrome.

The authors concluded that given that approximately one-third of adults in USA have metabolic syndrome, these findings have implications for the future incidence of both most common types of liver cancer.

Source: European Society for Medical Oncology