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'Think liver, think alcohol' mindset blind to liver disease risk

16 October, 2013

Despite six million Australians living with liver disease, around nine-in-ten Australians are unaware of the damage they may be doing to their long-term liver health, according to a Galaxy Research poll.

The nationwide poll was conducted as part of the 'Love Your Liver' campaign by Hepatitis Australia which found 86 per cent of Australians believe they are at low-risk of developing liver disease.2

"This perception is far from reality," Helen Tyrrell, CEO of Hepatitis Australia, said.

"Most people recognise that excessive alcohol use can lead to liver disease, but non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and viral hepatitis fly well below the radar for most Australians despite being by far the biggest contributors to liver damage and ultimately liver cancer."

"Alcohol-related liver disease is not the first cause of liver disease in Australia," said Associate Professor Amany Zekry, Chairperson of the Australian Liver Association (ALA) and liver specialist at St George Hospital, Sydney.

"In contrast to this popular belief, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, in the context of obesity and diabetes, is becoming the leading cause of liver disease, followed by hepatitis C and B – both of which can be treated if the virus is detected."

The research found 74 per cent of Australians consider alcohol consumption the leading cause of liver disease in Australia, far outweighing other causes such as diet (16 per cent) or viral hepatitis (10 per cent).2

"It is concerning that more than six million Australians are already living with some form of liver disease and the number is expected to grow," Tyrrell said.

"To prevent a further surge in liver disease and liver cancer, which is now the fastest growing cancer in Australia, people need to understand all the factors that impact their liver health.

"We are calling on Australians to take part in our 'know your risk' quiz at www.loveyourliver.com.au and take action to prevent a liver disease epidemic."

 

The top causes of liver disease in Australia are:

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (5.53 million)

Hepatitis C (307,040)

Hepatitis B (211,089)

Alcohol and haemochromatosis – (iron overload disorder) (119,440)

 

References:

1.  Galaxy Research, June 2013 - Conducted online among a representative sample of 1007 adults aged 18-64 years, including a sub-sample of 201 respondents that were born in Africa or Asia.

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