Study links exercise to the prevention of liver cancer

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Liver cancer is on the rise, having more than tripled since 1980, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

This increase corresponds to the time frame of the “diabesity” pandemic, which refers to the close association between obesity and type 2 diabetes.

As well as being increasingly common, liver cancer is often deadly, with the number of fatalities closely mirroring the number of diagnoses. Each year, the ACS note, 800,000 people around the world receive a liver cancer diagnosis, and the disease is responsible for about 700,000 deaths.

A new study in mice has shown that exercise may prevent the development of liver cancer. The researchers have also identified two chemical pathways behind the onset of the disease.

While liver cancer statistics for the United States are alarming — with experts predicting 42,810 diagnoses and 30,160 deaths in 2020 — the U.S. is not even among the top 25 countries for liver cancer. In 2018, the country with the most cases was Mongolia, with Egypt coming in second and Gambia third.

Males are more likely than females to develop liver cancer, and the condition is the fastest growing cause of cancer deaths in men in the U.S. The most common form of the disease is hepatocellular carcinoma, and this is the type of liver cancer that the new study investigates.

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While exercise is often a recommended way to maintain a moderate weight and avoid or control type 2 diabetes, the study’s authors focused on identifying a mechanism directly linking activity level to liver cancer.