Liver cancer deaths have increased in the U.S., according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
Between 2000 and 2016, liver cancer death rates increased by 43% for men and 40% for women, according to the NCHS. In that time period, liver cancer rose from the ninth to the sixth leading cause of cancer death; it’s expected to kill about 30,200 people this year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Liver cancer is much more prevalent in men than it is in women. Taking into account the recent increases, liver cancer kills roughly 15 out of every 100,000 American men, compared to 6.3 out of every 100,000 American women.
Fatalities are also most common among older adults. Adults older than 75 have the most liver cancer deaths, and the death rate in that demographic increased from 29.8 to 40.2 per 100,000 people between 2000 and 2016.
Adults ages 65 to 74 and 55 to 64 both saw sizable increases in liver cancer death rates between 2000 and 2016, while rates stayed fairly stable for younger people ages 25 to 44 and 45 to 54. Liver cancer deaths are so uncommon for people younger than 25 that they were not included in the NCHS report.
Asian and Pacific Islander adults — who had the highest liver cancer death rate in 2000 — were the only racial or ethnic group to experience a rate decrease during the study time period, dropping from 17.5 to 13.6 per 100,000 people. In Hispanic adults, meanwhile, the death rate rose from 11.5 to 14.6, making them the new group to be most at risk.
The NCHS report doesn’t explain why the U.S. is seeing such pronounced increases in liver cancer deaths. However, heavy drinking is a risk factor for liver cancer and associated conditions, according to the ACS. While underage drinking is becoming less common, recent research has shown that binge drinking and alcohol abuse are also on the rise among American adults — to the extent that they’re even cutting into the U.S. life expectancy.