Fatty Liver Disease May Lead to Cancer

   |  Updated: April 27, 2015 19:43 IST

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Fatty Liver Disease May Lead to Cancer
Excessive consumption of alcohol and increased prevalence of obesity has made fatty liver disease as serious as hepatitis B and C, say experts.

The liver is the second largest organ in one's body, which is located under the rib cage on the right side. It processes what one eats and drinks and converts it into energy and nutrients that the body can use. The liver also removes harmful substances from the blood. According to experts, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is now one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease, which could be caused by obesity, eating junk food, lack of exercise, diabetes and high cholesterol.

"Alcoholic and NAFL (non-alcoholic fatty liver) disease could lead to cancer. Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world," says Ravi Mohanka, chief surgeon and head of department, hepato-pancreato-biliary surgery and liver transplantation, Global Hospitals, Mumbai. He added that if the damage is not controlled at this stage by lifestyle changes, "it may progressively lead to liver cirrhosis, requiring a liver transplant".

"It has been seen in various studies that nearly 20 percent of the general population suffers from NAFL. This figure increases to up to 80 percent in those who are obese or diabetic. Up to five percent of these can develop progressive disease," said Yogesh Batra, director and senior consultant, gastroenterology, BLK Super Specialty Hospital.

"Hepatitis B carriers are there in two to four percent of the general population and hepatitis C is about 1.5 percent. As the incidence of fatty liver increases progressively, patients of fatty liver requiring transplant may soon surpass those of hepatitis B and C," he added.Rajnish Monga, Consultant Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Paras Hospitals, said that fatty liver is the accumulation of fat in the liver cells. He added that fatty liver may be associated with liver swelling (inflammation) in some patients leading to slow liver cell death, scarring, ultimately causing cirrhosis.

According to Dr. Batra,  ultrasound diagnoses the disease easily. "Patients come either with non-specific pain and lethargy. Ultrasound diagnoses the disease easily. MRI is more specific, final diagnosis and classification is done by a liver biopsy," he said.

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While doctors said that the disease is not passed in generations, they pointed out that dietary patterns within families are usually the same.

"For a patient suffering with end stage liver disease the only viable option with long term survival is liver transplant. Unfortunately, in India most of the liver transplants are by close relatives. Cadaveric donations are few with a long waiting time," said Dr. Monga.

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