Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Linked to Cancer

December 22, 2017 in LifeCare Health Services

Non-Alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for several different liver conditions that are connected to having too much fat stored in liver cells. This is despite not drinking a lot of alcohol. NAFLD affects an estimated 80 to 100 million people in the United States. NAFLD can lead to other health issues, in fact, a recent study has linked NAFLD to an increased risk of cancer.

In a study involving almost 26,000 patients, researchers compared patients who had NAFLD to patients who did not. There was a 32% higher rate of cancer among the patients who had NAFLD. They were 16 times more likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma. Men who had NAFLD were twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer. Women with NAFLD were almost twice as likely to develop breast cancer as well.

These findings suggest that people with NAFLD should watch out for cancer development. They are also consistent with previous findings, at least with the link between NAFLD and colorectal cancer in men. The fact that this was an observational study is a limitation. Because NAFLD is a manifestation of metabolic syndrome, it’s entirely possible that it’s not NAFLD causing cancer but rather the existing metabolic issues causing it. This study cannot answer that question. Regardless, it’s important to keep track of one’s dietary and exercise habits to avoid developing metabolic syndrome and NAFLD in the first place.


Kim J-A, et al. "Association between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cancer incidence rate" Journal of Hepatology. DOI:10.1016/j.jhep.2017.09.012.

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