If you are over 45 years of age, and as well as obese, diabetic and drink alcohol regularly, you are at a 10 times higher risk of developing liver cancer than others.
"A decade ago, hepatitis B and C were the leading causes of liver cancer. These have been replaced by lifestyle disorders such as obesity, diabetes and alcohol use," said Dr SK Sarin, director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), a Delhi government-run hospital.
"These add to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases that India is witnessing," he added.
One in five persons runs the risk of developing acute liver disease in India, which, if not treated, can eventually lead to liver cancer.
According to WHO data, nearly 10% of the India's population is obese; the same percentage is diabetic and about 30% is consuming alcohol beyond permissible limits, which put together is responsible for the increasing number of Indians falling under the high-risk category of getting serious liver diseases.
"Developing fatty liver is the earliest stage of alcoholic liver disease; if a person stops drinking there, the liver can still heal itself," said Dr SK Acharya, head of department of gastroenterology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Nearly one million people in India suffer from chronic liver disease, largely due to infection and drinking too much alcohol. Around the world too, alcoholic liver disease accounts for 40% of deaths from cirrhosis and 30% of the cases of liver cancer.
Women should not have more than 40ml alcohol per week and men not more than 80 ml a week to avoid damage to the liver.
These limits, however, apply only to those who have no underlying medical condition such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
Viral hepatitis, especially B and C, is another common cause of developing serious liver ailments, which if not treated in time can even lead to liver cancer. Both B and C viruses spread by contaminated blood with infected blood or blood products.
Mother-to-child transmission accounts for a third of total hepatitis B-infected people. In an on-going study at New Delhi's Lady Hardinge Medical College, one-third of the pregnant women out of 40,000 screened so far were hepatitis B carriers.
"All pregnant women must be screened for hepatitis B," said Dr Sarin.
A low-cost and effective vaccine against hepatitis B is part of the universal vaccination programme and given to all newborns to prevent possible infection from the mother and also infection later in life.
"Prevention is the best option as treatment is expensive and only a few can afford liver transplant. Babies should get the first dose of the three-dose hepatitis B vaccine on the day of birth, as 90%children who get infected before the age of one year will be chronically infected as adults," added Dr Acharya.
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