Updated: Jun 25, 2020
Written by: Patricia Trifunov
Most would say they think of someone young, strong, and healthy.
For most of us, that seems correct; those who fight for our country serve in their prime. The average military officer is hardly over 35 years old, and the average recruit is around 21.
What you don't expect are the frightening increases in serious diseases like liver cancer within that same population.
Confirmed by a study of the Veteran population, the incidence of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), a common variation of liver cancer, more than doubled between 2001 and 2013, and the number of deaths it caused nearly tripled.
"Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis used to be considered a disease that would happen after 30 years of heavy alcohol consumption," says Dr. Vijay Shah
"Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis used to be considered a disease that would happen after 30 years of heavy alcohol consumption," says Dr. Vijay Shah, head of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Mayo Clinic, "but this [Veterans] study is showing that these problems are actually occurring in individuals in their 20s and 30s."
It isn't just alcohol consumption that is affecting these increases. The combination of alcohol consumption and obesity, a significant risk factor for HCC, "can interact to worsen the liver disease," says Dr. Elliot Tapper, Liver Specialist at the University of Michigan Medical School.
According to the VA Office of Research and Development, 35% of American adults are obese. Among Veterans, the rate of obesity stands at 78%. Even in the Department of Defense, which treats the theoretically healthier patients who are on active duty, the rate of obesity ranges from 61-83%.
Dr. Elliot Tapper thinks these rates mean the problem will only get worse.
If you have any questions or would like a deeper analysis of treatments and coverage for Liver Disease treatments within the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense, please let us help you. Together, we can help our Veterans receive the best treatments available.