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Expatriate Medical Insurance News: Family history 'increases liver cancer risk'

Expatriates with a family history of liver cancer might want to take out international private medical insurance, as research has shown they will be more likely to develop the condition themselves.

The investigation, which was published in the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases' journal Hepatology and led by Professor Carlo La Vecchia from the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri and the University of Milan, found those with a familial link to the condition have an elevated risk of suffering from hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC).

Furthermore, this was found to be independent of hepatitis, although those with markers for hepatitis B (HBV) or C (HCV) as well as a genetic history of liver cancer had a far greater chance of developing HCC.

HBV or HCV accounts for 78 per cent of all HCC cases, while World Health Organisation data shows liver cancer caused the deaths of 700,000 people during 2008.

Investigators examined 299 cases of HCC and 431 control subjects, revealing 75 per cent of HCC suffers had a hepatitis infection, compared with 11 per cent of those in the control group.

Scientists then associated HCC risk with a family history of liver cancer, adjusting for chronic cases of HCV and HBV.

They realised those with a potential genetic risk of suffering from liver cancer but without chronic hepatitis had an odds ratio of 73, which indicated their risk of developing HCC was substantially greater than the general populace.

Professor La Veccia said: "Our findings confirm that individuals with a positive family history of liver cancer have [a] three times higher risk of developing HCC."

He added: "Monitoring individuals with family history, particularly those with hepatitis markers, could help to identify HCC at an earlier stage and hence potentially reduce mortality from HCC."

Symptoms of liver cancer include unexplained weight loss, yellowing or jaundiced skin, swelling of the abdomen and a lack of appetite.

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