Stockholm county [Sweden]Sep 8 (ANI): According to a national study published in The Journal of Hepatology, close relatives of people with metabolic-associated fatty liver disease had a higher chance of developing liver cancer and dying from liver-related diseases. According to the researchers, this suggests that family members may benefit from lifestyle advice currently offered exclusively to patients.
People with metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MASLD, formerly known as NAFLD – see fact box) have an increased risk of developing and dying from liver cancer. MASLD is now the main reason why the number of people developing liver cancer has increased so dramatically. But now researchers at Karolinska Institutet show that close relatives and partners also have an increased risk of developing liver cancer and advanced liver disease.
Can benefit from early screening “Our findings suggest that patients with MASLD should not be treated separately,” says the study’s first author Fahim Ebrahimi, physician and researcher at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, adding: “Indeed, recommendations for lifestyle changes should also be given to their family members. Our study also suggests that relatives with metabolic risk factors such as diabetes mellitus may benefit from early screening for MASLD.” The researchers based their study on the ESPRESSO cohort, which contains data on all liver biopsies taken in Sweden from 1965 until today. They identified nearly 12,000 people with biopsy-proven MASLD. After matching each person with up to five comparators from the general population, they identified first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, and children) and partners for both groups. The study included almost 250,000 first-degree relatives and 57,000 partners.
Followed for up to 50 years: During an average follow-up period of 17.6 years, with some individuals followed for up to 50 years, the researchers found that first-degree relatives of MASLD patients were 80 percent more likely to develop liver cancer than controls. But because liver cancer is a relatively rare disease, the absolute increase in risk is much lower: 0.11 percent over 20 years, according to the researchers.
“In other words, one in 900 first-degree relatives of patients with MASLD will also develop liver cancer over a 20-year period,” said senior author Jonas F. Ludvigsson, professor at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, adding: ” So the absolute risk is very small but still relevant at the population level.” Shared lifestyle is an important factor The researchers also found that partners of patients with MASLD were more likely to develop serious liver disease (such as cirrhosis) and to die from liver-related causes.
“Our findings confirm that there is a clear familial risk for MASLD and that a shared lifestyle is an important factor in its development,” Dr Ebrahimi said. (ANI)