DEATHS from liver cancer are rising faster than any other form of the disease in Scotland.

Obesity, alcohol consumption, smoking and infection with hepatitis B and C are the main causes of liver cancer, which also has one of the poorest survival rates of any cancer.

In the past decade, from 2008 to 2018, deaths from liver cancer rose 59 per cent to 578. Two thirds of the deaths - 384 deaths - occurred among men.

However, the disease is increasingly claiming the lives of women in Scotland as well. There were 194 female liver cancer deaths in 2018, up 67% in a decade.

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Vanessa Hebditch, director of policy at the British Liver Trust said: “We know that the numbers of people affected by liver cancer are rising across the UK.

“By 2035, rates of liver cancer are projected to rise by 38%, the equivalent of 11,000 people a year. However – these new statistics suggest that the numbers are increasing at an even faster rate in Scotland.

“Liver cancer is a lethal disease with high mortality – only 12% of those affected live for five years. The main reason for the increases that we are seeing is the rise in obesity and the numbers of people who drink too much alcohol. Approximately four out of ten people are diagnosed with liver cancer in A&E.

“Most people who develop primary liver cancer will have underlying liver disease. It is therefore vital that if we are to stop this trend we raise awareness of the risk factors and diagnose people much earlier. Once diagnosed it is important that people with liver disease are regularly screened for cancer.”

It comes as figures show that there were a record 16,153 deaths from cancer in Scotland last year.

This is largely because the number of older people, who are at greater risk of developing cancer, has increased. Once the statistics are adjusted to take the ageing population into account, cancer mortality has fallen 10% since 2008.

However, campaigners said staff shortages are impacting on the ability to diagnose cancer at an early stage.

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Gordon Matheson, public affairs manager for Cancer Research UK in Scotland, said: “Staff shortages are harming the NHS’s ability to diagnose cancer at an early stage.

“The Scottish Government needs to tackle this problem urgently and plan to ensure there are enough key cancer staff now and in the future.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the continued fall in cancer mortality rates was “encouraging” but accepted more needs to be done.

She added: “Our £42 million Detect Cancer Early programme aims to increase the proportion of breast, bowel and lung cancers detected at an early stage.

“The programme also aims to reduce the inequality gap as those from more deprived areas are less likely to take part in screening and more likely to present at a later stage, when the chance of survival is lower.”