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Liver disease kills four times as many men in some parts of England as others

By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor, The Telegraph

Four times as many men die from liver disease in Blackpool than in Bedfordshire, official figures have revealed, showing the difference in mortality caused by alcohol, obesity and hepatitis, experts said.

Public Health England released the local liver disease profiles showing the death rates for each of the 152 local authority areas.

Nationally deaths from liver disease, which can be caused by excessive drinking, obesity and infection with hepatitis, have risen from 7,841 in 2001 to 10,948 in 2012.

It is the only major killer disease which is still rising in England. Across the rest of Europe it is decreasing.

The individual profiles show that Blackpool has the highest death rate among men with 58.4 deaths per 100,000 followed by Manchester with 54.9 per 100,000.

This was compared with Central Bedfordshire where 13 men died per 100,000 from liver disease and Hertfordshire with 13.6 male deaths per 100,000.

Liver disease is one of the leading causes of early death in England as one in ten people who die in their forties die of liver disease.

In addition, new research shows that in some areas, the numbers of years of life lost in people aged under 75 from liver disease is almost three times the number of years of life lost from both breast cancer and from stroke.

Professor Julia Verne, Lead for Liver Disease at Public Health England, said, “Liver disease is a public health priority because young lives are being needlessly lost.

"All the preventable causes are on the rise, but alcohol accounts for 37 per cent of liver disease deaths. We must do more to raise awareness, nationally and locally, and this is why it is so important for the public and health professionals to understand their local picture.”

Emily Robinson, Deputy Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern said: “The country is in danger of losing the battle against liver disease, which goes against the trend in much of the rest of Europe where many of our neighbours are actually making progress.

"It’s a tragedy that we’re actually seeing cases of young people in their twenties dying of alcoholic liver disease, when this can be prevented. The so called ‘alcopops generation’ have grown up in a society where alcohol is available at almost anytime, anywhere, at incredibly cheap prices and promoted non-stop.

"The Government needs to make tackling the rise in liver disease an urgent priority and action must include introducing a minimum unit pricing for alcohol, a policy that promises to save hundreds of lives and reduce thousands of hospital admissions each year.”

It is hoped the profiles can be used by local NHS and councils to target investment where it is needed most.

Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of The British Liver Trust, said, "The British Liver Trust is delighted with the level of detail provided within these profiles – they provide invaluable evidence as to how local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, public health professionals and the NHS can improve upon and increase prevention, early diagnosis and more timely care and treatment.

"These profiles, which were urgently needed, will begin to address the devastating rise of poor liver health throughout the country and reduce unnecessary deaths of increasingly younger people from liver disease."