People with metabolic syndrome may have heightened risks of developing hepatocellular carcinoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, the two most common types of liver cancer.

An analysis of 3,649 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma and 743 cases of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma indicated that 37.1% and 29.7% of the subjects, respectively, had preexisting metabolic syndrome. In comparison, only 17.1% of 195,953 cancer-free adults included in the analysis had metabolic syndrome.

The association between metabolic syndrome and liver cancer could well be a factor in the growing incidence of liver cancer that has been occurring in the United States since the 1980s. “A lot of attention has focused on viral risk factors, but a significant part of the increase may be due to metabolic syndrome as well as to diabetes and obesity,” acknowledged study co-author Katherine McGlynn, PhD, a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, in a statement announcing the findings, which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held April 2-6, 2011, in Orlando.

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According to McGlynn, approximately one-third of the US population has metabolic syndrome, defined as the co-occurrence of at least three of five conditions: elevated BP, increased waist circumference, low LDL cholesterol, elevated triglyceride levels, and elevated fasting plasma glucose levels.