Detect liver diseases early instead of treating them late

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Michael P. Manns, President of Hannover Medical School and co-chair of the EASL-

Michael P. Manns, President of Hannover Medical School and co-chair of the EASL-Lancet-Liver Commission ; Copyright: Karin Kaiser / MHH

MHH President develops recommendations for improving liver health with European Liver Commission

Every year, almost 300,000 people in Europe die prematurely due to liver disease. Besides viral infections, genetic and autoimmune liver diseases, obesity and alcohol consumption are among the main risk factors. Instead of focusing on the treatment of end-stage liver disease, the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) wants to shift the focus to prevention and early detection. For three years, the EASL-Lancet-Liver Commission has analysed the situation in Europe. Today, the expert panel is presenting its findings in Brussels. "The health of people in Europe depends on our future ability to detect liver diseases earlier, treat them or prevent them altogether through preventive action," emphasises Michael P. Manns, President of Hannover Medical School (MHH), who co-chaired the Liver Commission. The report appears simultaneously in The Lancet, the most important medical journal in Europe.

Ban on alcohol advertising demanded

In Europe, chronic liver disease has a significant impact on young and middle-aged people in their prime working years, with the highest age of death between late 40s and early 50s. This contrasts with mortality from smoking and other obesity-related diseases - such as lung cancer or type 2 diabetes. Among the recommendations to medicine and politics is a ban on advertising in social and digital media for alcohol and extremely fatty and sugary foods aimed at children. In addition, medical staff should be made more aware of liver disease and given financial incentives for primary care. "In most cases, liver disease can be prevented," stressed Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, in her welcome address to the EASL Lancet Liver Commission. "Prevention is the best cure we have."

Prevention and treatment also possible for hepatitis

This does not only apply to liver diseases due to an unhealthy lifestyle. Even liver inflammations caused by infections with hepatitis viruses do not necessarily lead to liver scarring (liver fibrosis) or the shrinking of the organ (liver cirrhosis). "The prevention and treatment of most liver diseases is possible today thanks to significant achievements in modern medicine," says Professor Manns. The hepatitis B vaccine, for example, is the first vaccine proven to prevent cancer. In addition, thanks to effective drugs against hepatitis C virus infections, the disease has become curable in almost all patients within 25 years of the discovery of the pathogen. "But we must guarantee access to treatment for all Europeans," the liver expert demands.

The European Liver Society EASL was founded in 1966. The non-profit organisation has grown to more than 4,500 members from all over the world, including many of the most renowned hepatologists in Europe and beyond. EASL is the leading liver association in Europe and promotes, among other things, research in the field of liver diseases.

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