A healthy lifestyle may help protect you from liver cancer

In a new study, researchers found that a substantial burden of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cirrhosis-related deaths may be prevented by lifestyle modifications to diet, alcohol use and exercise.

The research was conducted by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

HCC and cirrhosis incidence are on the rise in the U.S., and deaths related to these illnesses are also accelerating at an alarming pace.

In the study, the team wanted to analyze whether adopting a healthier lifestyle might reduce HCC incidence and deaths from cirrhosis.

Several prior studies have found that individual lifestyle factors, which include body weight, exercise, alcohol use, smoking, and diet, contribute to the risk for developing HCC.

However, no prior study had quantified the overall contribution of multiple lifestyle factors on the risk for HCC and liver-related mortality

This nationwide study included data on adult men and women with no known liver disease at the beginning of the study.

Study participants provided detailed clinical, lifestyle and dietary data every other year from 1986 through 2012. All new HCC cases and deaths were confirmed.

A low-risk lifestyle group met all of the following criteria: never smoked or prior smoking less than five pack-years, no or moderate alcohol use, a body-mass index between 18.5 and 24.9, weekly physical activity and a healthy diet.

All other study participants were placed in a high-risk group.

The team found people in the low-risk group had a much lower risk of liver-related death than those in the high-risk group.

Overall, overweight/obesity was the strongest modifiable risk factor.

The findings strongly support continued efforts to develop public health policies for lifestyle modification, to prevent HCC and liver-related mortality.

The data suggested that adherence to a healthy overall lifestyle could potentially prevent more than 30,000 liver-related deaths in the United States each year.

The lead author of the study is Tracey G. Simon, MD, instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The study was presented at The Liver Meeting® – held by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

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