Liver Cancer Linked to Heart Disease and Diabetes Risks

One-third of Americans have metabolic syndrome

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you have the most common risks for diabetes and heart disease, you may be at greater risk of developing liver cancer.

Scientists have now confirmed that metabolic syndrome, a collection of various conditions that increases risk of diabetes and heart disease, may also increase the risk of liver cancer.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that put you at risk for heart disease and diabetes, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels
  • High levels of triglycerides - a type of fat - in your blood
  • Low levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, in your blood
  • Too much fat around your waist

"People who have risks of heart disease and diabetes are at increased risk of developing liver cancer."

What causes metabolic syndrome?

Doctors don't agree on the exact definition or cause of metabolic syndrome. Some believe insulin resistance may be at the heart of the disorder. Insulin is the hormone that allows blood sugar to move from the circulation into the tissues for energy. With insulin resistance, too much sugar builds up in the blood, setting the stage for disease.

The statistics aren't good

Metabolic syndrome affects approximately one-third of people in the United States, according to Katherine McGlynn,Ph.D., a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute.

Prevalence increases with age, and the disorder is a particularly serious problme in some groups, including Hispanics and African Americans.

Metabolic syndome and liver cancer

According to McGlynn, persons with these conditions may be at increased risk of developing the two most common types of liver cancer - hepatocellular carcinoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.

Liver cancer incidence has been rising since the 1980s in the United States. The factors related to the increase are not well understood.

“A lot of attention has focused on viral risk factors, but a significant part of the increase may be due to metabolic syndrome, as well as to diabetes and obesity,” said McGlynn.

The study

For the current study, researchers identified 3,649 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma and 743 cases of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. They compared the medical history of these patients with the medical histories of 195,953 cancer-free adults.

Analyses showed that the persons with liver cancer were significantly more likely than cancer-free persons to have a prior history of metabolic syndrome

  • 37.1 percent of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma
  • 29.7 percent of patients with intraheptic carcinoma.
  • Only 17.1 percent of the cancer-free adults had metabolic syndrome.

Liver cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease, with a five-year survival of approximately 10 percent, according to McGlynn.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 8, 2011
Last Updated:
April 16, 2011