Health Briefs

January 18, 2012

Childhood obesity raises risk for liver cancer in adults

Obese kids appear to be at greater risk for developing liver cancer later in life. That’s according to the results of a recently published study that tracked more than 320,000 Danish adults.

The study showed that each one-point increase in a child’s body mass index (BMI) corresponded to a 12 percent increase in the risk for developing hepatocellular carcinoma, one of the more common types of liver cancer.

Obesity is a known risk factor for a number of serious health problems and metabolic disorders, including heart disease, type-2 diabetes and fatty liver disease. The study further reinforces the importance of teaching kids about healthy lifestyle habits, including exercise and nutrition, as early as possible. 

Caution advised over supplements that may cause liver damage

Some supplements are better than others. And based on the preliminary results of a research study, consumers taking weight-loss or body-building supplements should be especially careful to guard against liver damage.

For the study, researchers in the US evaluated patients from a national database of consumers who had filed reports claiming they suffered liver damage after taking health supplements. Patients answered questions regarding their supplement history and were given a number of liver-related tests. 

The results linked specific types of supplements to different types of liver injury; supplements promoting body-building had the highest rate of damage – about half who took them suffered liver damage, with the most common symptoms including jaundice that, in some cases, was so severe it required hospitalization.
Researchers found weight-loss supplements to be a direct cause of liver damage in about 40 percent of patients who took them; more than 10 percent eventually needed a liver transplant.

It’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re considering taking supplements, as many are not regulated.

Alcohol may boost risk of breast and liver cancers

A new study points to a higher risk for some cancers, including breast cancer among women, liver cancer, and some cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract. Results of the study were published in a recent issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
The study identified a link between the way the body metabolizes alcohol and damage to DNA that raises a person’s risk for certain types of cancer. Older studies dating back to the 1980s identified a relationship between alcohol consumption and some cancers (mainly breast, colon and liver cancer) though these studies did not establish that alcohol was actually causing the cancers.

People of East Asian ethnicity appear to be at higher risk of cancer due to alcohol. An estimated 30 percent of East Asians aren’t able to convert alcohol to acetate due to a genetic variation. That difference is behind their much higher risk for developing esophageal cancer due to consumption of alcohol.
The study exposed human cells to alcohol concentrations equivalent to levels found in the body during social drinking. The cells were engineered to metabolize alcohol into acetaldehyde by an enzyme found in human liver and breast tissue.

The study may spur a new round of research to examine the precise causal nature of the way the human body metabolizes alcohol. In the meantime, moderation continues to be the healthiest approach to drinking.

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