The first population-based US study looking into major risk factors for liver cancer found that diabetes is a major player. In fact, the researchers reported that it raises the risk 2-to 3-fold. Using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results-Medicare database, the researchers included 2161 patients aged 65 and older with a diagnosis of liver cancer between 1994 and 1999. The control group included 6183 randomly selected participants.
Reporting in Gut (April 2005), the researchers discovered that 43% of the patients with liver cancer had diabetes diagnosed during the 3 years before the liver cancer diagnosis, compared with 19% of the control group. The researchers wanted to eliminate the chance that liver cancer was the cause of diabetes. Factoring in demographics, the results of the study found the prevalence of developing liver cancer was 3 times greater for individuals with diabetes, compared with patients without the disease.
After rejecting patients with the hepatitis B or C virus, alcoholic disease, or hemochromatosis, the findings also indicated that the chance of developing liver cancer was still 2.87 to 3.11 times higher for patients with diabetes. The hepatitis C virus alone was linked with a 24-fold higher risk of developing liver cancer, and in the presence of diabetes it increased 37-fold.