Did you know that your family could put your liver at risk?

Did you know that your family could put your liver

Swedish researchers have highlighted a clear familial risk in the occurrence of liver diseases, such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.

THE hereditary liver diseases ? The question arises in view of the results ofa study by the Karolinska Institute of Sweden published on September 8, 2023 in The Journal of Hepatology. According to the authors, there is an obvious familial risk in the occurrence of liver diseases. The researchers based themselves on a cohort bringing together data from liver biopsies carried out in Sweden between 1965 and 2023. They identified nearly 12,000 people affected by MAFLD (fatty liver of metabolic origin) and have analysis their first-degree relatives (parents, brothers, sisters and children) as well as their life partners. They followed them for 18 years old on average (up to 50 years for certain people) and noticed, at the end of their follow-up, that the first degree relatives liver disease patients were 80% more likely to develop liver cancer and die from liver disease. One nuance though: liver cancer being a relatively uncommon disease, the concrete risk for these people to have this cancer in the next 20 years would be 0.11% according to the researchers. “In other words, one first-degree relative in 900 patients with MAFLD will develop liver cancer over a period of 20 years” explains the study’s lead author Jonas F. Ludvigsson, professor at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institute.

Partners should also monitor their liver

The absolute risk of liver cancer is therefore very weak, but remains relevant to highlight in the general population. Researchers also found that partners of patients with MAFLD were more likely to develop serious liver disease (such as cirrhosis) and die of liver disease. In this context, recommendations on lifestyle changes as well as a early detection of liver diseases should be more offered to relatives and partners of a patient with liver disease, according to scientists. MAFLD (also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD) is the acronym for “Metabolic Associated Fatty Liver Disease” which means in French fatty liver associated with a metabolic disorder such as overweight, obesity, diabetes or metabolic syndrome (high waistline, high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, etc.).

It is characterized by an accumulation of fat in liver cells. A largely underdiagnosed disease (only 1/4 of people are diagnosed), it represents a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis and therefore liver cancer. Today, there are no recognized drug treatments, although various studies are underway to develop potential drugs. Only the modification of lifestyle with weight loss and increased physical activity helps to improve the disease, or even in the early stages, to cure it. In France, no global epidemiological data is available, apart from modeling studies which estimate at 18% the number of adults affected by MAFLD in Franceindicates theINSERM. MAFLD should not be confused with NASHwhich is also a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, but which is accompanied by inflammation of the liver cells.