Warnings as Scotland’s liver cancer death rates rise rapidly

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Death rates from liver cancer have increased by 52 per cent in the last 10 years, with the disease killing 572 Scots last year.

New figures from the NHS showed that the cancer mortality rate for all forms of the disease fell by 11 per cent over the decade to 2015, with lung cancer death rates down by 15.1 per cent and a 16.4 per cent decrease for bowel cancer.

Meanwhile, there was a 21% drop in the mortality rate for breast cancer - the most commonly diagnosed cancer for females - over the period, despite an increase in cases of the disease.

A total of 16,011 deaths in 2015 were caused by cancer, with the report noting that “although the rate of deaths due to cancer has decreased over this period, the actual number of deaths due to cancer has not”.

It stated: “This largely reflects an increase in older age groups within the population and the fact that cancer is a relatively common disease among the elderly.”

Cancer mortality rates have fallen by 14 per cent among men over the last 10 years, the 2015 figures showed. The decrease in the mortality rate for females was lower at six per cent.

Five types of cancer were responsible for more than half of all cancer deaths in 2015, with 4,047 from lung cancer, 1,565 from bowel cancer, 992 from breast, 985 from prostate cancer and 816 as a result of cancer of the oesophagus.

Deaths from liver cancer are up from 320 in 2005, with the mortality rate increasing by 45.6 per cent in males and by 68.6 per cent for females.

“The increase in the mortality rate of liver cancer over the last 10 years by 52 per cent reflects the increase in incidence of this type of cancer,” the report said.

“Survival from liver cancer is poor in most cases. The main risk factors for liver cancer are alcohol and infection with hepatitis B and C.”

The figures also showed that the incidence of cancer is 31% higher in the most deprived parts of Scotland than the most affluent communities.

And mortality rates are almost two thirds (64 per cent) higher in the worst off areas than they are in the least deprived parts of Scotland.

But the report said: “There are variations in this pattern when looking at specific types of cancer.

“For example, while lung cancer incidence and mortality rates are higher in the most deprived areas of Scotland, incidence and mortality rates of malignant melanoma of the skin (melanoma skin cancer) are higher in the least deprived areas of Scotland.”

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said: “These figures reflect that cancer is a stark reality for so many families in Scotland as increasing numbers of people die from the disease.

“But more people are surviving cancer and this is partly due to earlier detection of the disease.

“Treatment is more likely to be successful when cancer is found at an early stage, so people shouldn’t hesitate to visit their GP if they notice any unusual or persistent changes in their body.

“Four in 10 cancers could be prevented and people can stack the odds against getting cancer in the first place by giving up smoking, being more active, drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight.”

Trisha Hatt, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Although the rate of death due to cancer has decreased, the actual number of deaths has not because more people are being diagnosed with cancer.

“Too often people are missing out on the right support and we want to make sure everyone with incurable cancer is offered an advance care plan outlining how and where they would like to be cared for at the end of life.”

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