Liver disease is only one of nation’s top five killers on increase

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LIVER disease is now the only one of Ireland’s top five killers that is showing an alarming level of increase.


The revelation came amid warnings that liver disease rates are on course to quadruple in Ireland between 1995 and 2015.

Experts fear the increase is linked to spiralling levels of obesity in Irish society, an increasingly fat-rich diet, heavy alcohol consumption and delays in seeking treatment.

Alarmingly, the greatest level of increase is among 15-to-34-year-olds, who historically have the lowest rates of liver disease.

Irish doctors now fear that the country will mirror Britain, where liver disease is now the only one of the top five ‘killers’ – stroke, cancer, heart disease, lung disease and liver disease – that is increasing year-on-year.

Mater Hospital liver expert Dr Stephen Stewart said he was shocked when he returned to Ireland in 2010, having worked overseas for a decade, at the increase in the number of liver disease cases.

“The biggest worry is that in Ireland, England and Scotland, mortality rates from cirrhosis of the liver are increasing at a significant rate, while in countries like France the mortality rate is falling steadily,” he said.

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) warned that the Government must take action to tackle the problem.

The RCPI has proposed a range of measures including a minimum alcohol pricing strategy and tougher controls on the availability of alcohol.

Their call has been backed by Alcohol Action Ireland, which warned that Ireland faces a multi-million-euro future health crisis unless action is taken now.

Updated Hospital In-Patient Enquiry (HIPE) data on liver disease rates won’t be available until later this year – but previous data showed shocking increases of up to 300pc.

The highest increases were recorded in liver disease linked to excessive alcohol consumption, which, between 1995 and 2007, soared by a startling 190pc, from 28.3 people per 100,000 adults to 82.2 people per 100,000.

However, the overall increase in liver disease from all causes such as alcohol, diet and infection (hepatitis) was close to 300pc.

That study also found that liver disease rates among the youngest age groups recorded the greatest levels of increase.

Among 15-to-34-year-olds the rate of disease spiralled by 247pc, while among 35-to-49 year-olds, it rose by 224pc.

Experts are worried that with 18-to-29-year-olds now having Ireland’s highest weekly alcohol consumption rate, the Health Service Executive (HSE) faces an epidemic of liver diseases cases over the next 20 years.