A warning for parents of children considered obese. Obesity in childhood has been shown to lead to a higher risk of liver cancer as adults according to a recent study presented at a conference in 2012.
Liver cancer, the kind that starts in the cells of the liver, not that has spread to the liver from another site, is the third most common cancer the world over. What's worse, this form of cancer will kill almost all patients who have it within the first year. Only 10-20% of such cancers can be removed fully with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may prove helpful, however most patients also have diseases that make these treatments harder to manage.
If that picture were not bleak enough, we also know that childhood obesity, like adult measurements, has risen dramatically over the last 30 years. The percentage of US children aged 6 to 11 years considered obese was nearly 20% in 2008, while adolescent obesity stands at 18% for the same year.
To conduct the latest work on childhood obesity and liver cancer, the team of researchers looked at birth weight and BMI at school age of over 165,000 boys and 160,000 girls in Denmark who were born between the years 1930 and 1989. Of these subjects, 252 were later diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) the most common type of cancer of the liver in adults.
After examining the data, the study team calculated that by age 7 the chance of developing liver cancer as an adult went up by 12% for every 1 BMI point increase. Upon entering the teen years, the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma went up to 25% with each single BMI point. As BMI went up as a child grown, so too did the chance of being diagnosed with liver cancer as an adult. The risk was the same across genders and for all ages.
Other things known to influence liver cancer risk include alcoholism or an infection by either hepatitis B or C or other another liver disease. Yet the study results did not change when subjects who had these risk factors were taken out of the mix. This suggests that being obese in childhood was the major risk in terms of developing hepatocellular carcinoma.
Childhood obesity is known to lead to a multitude of harmful metabolic conditions, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, including fatty liver disease that may later bring liver cancer warnings experts. This is why they maintain that it is so important to keep a child's BMI in the healthy range during these years.
Losing that weight is not any easier for kids than it is for adults, but considering the risks, a healthy lifestyle should be modeled for your children. Eating a well balanced, although not entirely treat free diet is a smart start. As is being more active, not just once in a while, but on a regular basis to prevent or turn around obesity in childhood.