Primary liver cancer in the UK, Incidence, incidence-based mortality, and survival by subtype, sex, and nation


Background & aims The incidence of primary liver cancer (PLC) is increasing in Western Europe. To understand trends over time and the current burden in the UK, a detailed analysis of the epidemiology of PLC and its subtypes was conducted. Methods Data on PLCs diagnosed during 1997-2017 were obtained from population-based, nationwide registries in the UK. European age-standardised incidence (ASR) and incidence-based mortality rates (ASMR) per 100,000 person-years were calculated overall and by sex and UK-nation. Annual percentage change in rates was estimated using Joinpoint regression. One-, 2-, and 5-year age-standardised net survival was estimated. Results A total of 82,024 PLCs were diagnosed. Both hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) incidence and mortality rates trebled (ASR 1.8-5.5 per 100,000, ASMR 1.3-4.0). The rate of increase appeared to plateau around 2014/2015. Scottish men consistently had the highest HCC incidence rates. PLC survival increased, driven by a substantial increase in the proportion that are HCC (as prognosis is better than other PLCs) and in HCC survival (change in 1-year survival 24-47%). Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma was the most common PLC in women and 1-year survival improved from 22.6% to 30.5%. Conclusions PLC incidence has been increasing rapidly but, as most risk factors are modifiable, it is largely a preventable cancer. This rate of increase has slowed in recent years, possibly attributable to effective treatment for hepatitis C. As other risk factors such as obesity and diabetes remain prevalent in the UK, it is unlikely the considerable burden of this disease will abate. While improvements in survival have been made, over half of patients are not alive after 1 year, therefore further progress in prevention, early detection, and treatment innovation are needed.

JHEP Reports
Ian A Rowe
Ian A Rowe
Associate Professor & Consultant Hepatologist

My research focuses on the outcomes that matter to persons with liver disease