The most deadly forms of alcohol-related liver disease appear to be on the rise in the U.S., a new study finds.
The new research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at more than 34,000 people and found the prevalence of alcoholic fatty liver disease, or AFLD, with at least Stage 2 fibrosis increased from 0.6% in 2001 to 1.5% in 2016.
The incidence of AFLD with Stage 3 or greater fibrosis increased from 0.1% to 0.2%.
“This is a particularly concerning observation given that developing fibrosis is the strongest predictor of progression to cirrhosis, liver cancer and death,” the study co-authored by Dr. Robert J. Wong at the Alameda Health System—Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif., said.
The study also cited evidence of an increasing number of cirrhosis deaths, largely driven by alcoholic cirrhosis, particularly among individuals aged 25 to 34 years.
“I think what triggered me to do this study was seeing a lot of patients with advanced alcoholic fatty liver disease,” Dr. Wong told NBC News.
Alcoholic liver disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, with nearly 250,000 deaths attributed to the disease in 2010.
One expert told NBC News that binge drinking among younger Americans might be fueling the problem.
“There have been studies in the last few years that suggest that amongst millennials, about 40% will report binge drinking in the past month,” Dr. Elliot Tapper, a liver disease specialist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan, said.
“That means it’s basically become a part of the culture for the American millennial. There’s no historical precedent for that,” he said.
Tapper said binge drinking seven to 14 drinks intermittently is far worse for the liver than drinking one to two drinks per day on a consistent basis.