Risk factors for type 2 diabetes also linked to liver cancer

Individuals who have metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases the risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes, may also be more likely to develop liver cancer, according to a new study from the National Cancer Institute.

Individuals are considered to have metabolic syndrome if they have three out of five conditions, including high blood pressure, low levels of good cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, high fasting blood sugar levels and a large waistline. The connection between the condition and type 2 diabetes is well established, but the idea that it may also be connected to liver cancer is a new finding.

For the study, which was presented at a recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, the scientists examined the medical histories of a group of individuals who had been diagnosed with liver cancer and compared the data to information from a set of healthy participants.

The results showed that more than 37 percent of patients being treated for hepatocellular carcinoma had preexisting metabolic syndrome. Another 29.7 percent of individuals with intrahepatic carcinoma suffered from metabolic syndrome. Only 17.1 percent of cancer-free patients had the condition.

The researchers said that cases of these liver cancers have been rising rapidly since the 1980s, yet doctors had little evidence of its cause. Most studies have looked at potential viral explanations for the trend, but the findings show that it may be more closely related to lifestyle factors. Given the fact that liver cancer is difficult to treat, these are important findings, the researchers said.

"The prognosis for liver cancer is only marginally better than the prognosis for pancreatic cancer, with a five-year survival of approximately 10 percent," said Katherine McGlynn, who led the study.

Aside from preventing type 2 diabetes, taking steps to resolve metabolic syndrome may help individuals avoid this prognosis.
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