A new scientific study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states that people with hemochromatosis have a tenfold increased risk of developing liver cancer.
Hemochromatosis is a genetic disease characterized by hyperabsorption of iron in the body. As a result of a disorder in the liver, iron is absorbed in excessive amounts and the body gradually becomes overloaded.
If this excess is not treated, it will have a negative effect on iron stocking organs, such as the liver, pancreas, heart, and bones. According to researchers at Exeter University in the United Kingdom, hemochromatosis is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer. Liver disease expert Dr. Jeremy Shearman said: “Doctors and scientists have long recognized that iron overload is an important co-factor in promoting the development of many serious diseases, including cancer.”
The analysis is based on data from almost 3,000 men and women with hemochromatosis or with a genetic predisposition to this disease. Participants were between 40 and 70 years of age at the beginning of the study. The follow-up observation lasted about 8, 9 years. Of the 1,294 men who were followed and were affected by the disease, 21 developed liver cancer, and 14 died of it. In addition, 10 of them had not been diagnosed with hemochromatosis when liver cancer was detected. Scientists estimate that 7.2% of men with hemochromatosis are likely to develop liver cancer at age 75, compared to 0.6% of men in the general population. The risk of dying from liver cancer also increases in men affected by the genetic disease.
The recommendations of the researchers
The researchers want to establish tests for the early detection of the disease which is related to the malfunction of a gene. In fact, hemochromatosis is a vey common disease in the West, with 1 in 300 people having a predisposition for the disease. Moreover, 85% of cases are diagnosed too late. Researchers also recommend that people who have a family member diagnosed with hemochromatosis should have a blood test even if no symptoms are present to diagnose the disease itself. This is because the disease is usually already at an advanced stage when clinical symptoms start to appear.