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Australia is facing a potential liver cancer "crisis"

Photo: Liver cancer crisis looms, warns expert
A new report shows cancer continues to have the biggest impact on Australia's health, costing the nation more years of life than any other disease group.

Australia is facing a potential liver cancer "crisis", with a report showing the death rate has increased seven-fold.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on Wednesday released its latest Burden of cancer in Australia report.

"Based on the latest trends, Australia faces a potential crisis in liver cancer, where death rates have increased seven-fold over the past 50 years," said Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO, Cancer Council Australia.

"It is predicted that this burden will increase by another 60 per cent between 2012 and 2020."
Overall the burden of cancer has lessened, however cancer continues to have the biggest impact on the nation's health - accounting for one fifth of the burden.

While other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, are more common and cause a greater number of deaths, cancer robs Australians of more years of life than any other disease.

"This is calculated in terms of years of life lost due to early death from cancer, as well as the years of healthy life lost due to living with the disease," said AIHW spokeswoman Michelle Gourley.

The report, based on 2011 data, shows five types of cancer accounted for almost half of the cancer burden - lung, bowel, breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

Almost a quarter, 22 per cent, of the total cancer burden was attributed to tobacco use.

While liver cancer did not make the "unenviable list of top five cancers" it could in the future if nothing is done to reduce the worrying trend in liver cancer diagnoses, warns Prof Aranda.

"We need a national strategy to prevent liver cancer and to monitor at-risk people," she said.

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