Liver Cirrhosis Presents Higher Mortality Rate Than Cancer

Mortality related to liver cirrhosis outpaces the rate for lung, colorectal, stomach, liver, and breast cancers.

Liver cirrhosis is a potentially lethal result of a chronic hepatitis infection. While novel therapies can cure many forms of hepatitis, patients may still experience serious liver damage.

The results of a study presented at The Liver Meeting indicate that mortality from cirrhosis is higher than mortality related to 5 major cancers, which suggests that new approaches to prevent or treat liver cirrhosis are necessary, according to the authors.

The study was designed to investigate the high mortality rate of patients with liver cirrhosis and highlight the need to improve policies related to the condition, according to the authors.

“Accurate data regarding the burden of diseases are necessary to inform health care policy, prioritize appropriate research and interventions, and allocate resources,” said corresponding investigator Dong Joon Kim, MD, PhD.

The investigators compared cirrhosis mortality to the mortality rates of lung, colorectal, stomach, liver, and breast cancers in Korea. While the mortality rate of the cancers varies between high- and low-income countries, the burden remains high worldwide.

“Liver cirrhosis causes 1.2 million deaths yearly worldwide, ranking as the 14th and 10th leading cause of death in the world and in most developed countries, respectively,” Dr Kim said. “To compare the burden of one disease with that of another, it’s necessary to consider the age at death, the life expectancy of people affected by each disease, and the degree of disability that each condition imposes on those who live with the disease. Different metrics — such as deaths, years of life lost, and years lived with disability – highlight different aspects of a population’s health status, and survival may be the most important of those.”

Included in the study was representative mortality data from 1,025,340 patients included in the Cause of Death Statistics and National Health Insurance Service‐National Sample Cohort databases.

The authors compared mortality data for liver cirrhosis with the 5 major cancers between 2002 and 2010.

The authors found that 800 out of 2609 patients with liver cirrhosis died, while 1316 out of 4852 patients with cancer died during this time period.

After adjusting for age, gender, geographic location, insurance, premiums, and comorbidities, the mortality burden for liver cirrhosis was greater compared with the 5 cancers, according to the study.

The investigators also conducted a sensitivity analysis and found that relative mortality for liver cirrhosis was high even when factors were adjusted for, according to the study.

Further analyses showed that relative mortality for decompensated cirrhosis was also higher than the 5 cancers.

“More importantly, 70.9% of liver cirrhosis patients died before the age of 65, while 54.6% of the patients with the 5 cancers studied died after the age of 65 years,” Dr Kim said. “Therefore, the socioeconomic burden of liver cirrhosis outweighs that of cancers. This finding might help to adequately allocate health resources and the proper implementation of health policies.”

Although cirrhosis survival rates are low, limited studies have compared the rates to other conditions, according to the authors.

“The socioeconomic impacts could be greater when considering that more males and younger patients are subject to death from liver cirrhosis than from cancers,” Dr Kim concluded. “This implies that we need to prioritize the development of appropriate health interventions for liver cirrhosis just as we have done for cancer.”