The Health Burden of Liver Disease
Group Leader : Quentin Anstee
Since 1996 the incidence of liver related deaths in the UK has risen by almost 50% from 8.6 deaths per 100,000 to 12.7 deaths per 100,000 of the male population. In 2001 chronic liver disease was the cause of death for 7% of UK men and 6% women who died under 45 years of age. This represents more men than died of Parkinson's disease and more women than died of cervical cancer. Liver disease is now the fifth most common cause of death in the UK after heart disease, stroke, chest disease and cancer (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/). However, unlike the other main causes of death, liver disease mortality rates are increasing rather than declining. The reason for this rise has not been fully explained. The treatment costs incurred are consuming an ever-increasing proportion of the healthcare budget in industrialised countries such as the United Kingdom.
Common Liver Diseases
Most common liver diseases are caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetic background. Whilst the environmental factors are often well established we know little about the genetic factors that make some of us more susceptible to disease. Liver disease may be due to alcohol addiction and excess consumption (Alcoholic Liver Disease, ALD); a condition related to obesity and diabetes mellitus called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD/NASH); chronic viral hepatitis infection; drug induced liver injury (DILI); or autoimmunity (damage to the liver due to "friendly-fire" by the immune system, including Primary Biliary Cirrhosis).
Irrespective of aetiology, chronic liver disease may progress to liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. Despite the significant morbidity, mortality and consumption of healthcare resources by end stage liver disease, there are currently limited therapeutic options for many of these conditions and no accepted treatments that may be used to slow the progression of liver fibrosis.
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