Diabetes, Obesity and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Several studies have shown a strong link between type II diabetes and liver cancer. Build-up of fat in the liver is common among persons with type II diabetes and may increase the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. This risk is higher in patients who also have other risk factors, such as heavy alcohol consumption or chronic viral hepatitis infections.

Obesity, which can contribute to fatty liver disease and cirrhosis, is a major risk factor for the development of type II diabetes, which, in turn, can increase the chance of developing liver cancer. It is unclear whether obesity directly causes liver cancer. Chronic hepatitis B and C infections are most strongly associated with liver cancer, but diabetes and obesity are major health problems that are becoming increasingly important risk factors for liver cancer.

In nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, excess fat builds up in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. The most severe form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). People with NASH have fat in their liver, along with inflammation and liver damage. They usually have no symptoms and do not know that they have a liver problem. NASH can be severe and can lead to cirrhosis. NASH is estimated to be the third most common liver disorder in North America and the most common in Australia and New Zealand.