To survey the burden of liver disease in Europe and its causes 260 epidemiological studies published in the last five years were reviewed. The incidence and prevalence of cirrhosis and primary liver cancer are key to understand the burden of liver disease. They represent the end-stage of liver pathology and thus are indicative of the associated mortality. About 0.1% of Hungarian males will die of cirrhosis every year compared with 0.001% of Greek females. WHO estimate that liver cancer is responsible for around 47,000 deaths per year in the EU. Harmful alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis B and C and metabolic syndromes related to overweight and obesity are the leading causes of cirrhosis and primary liver cancer in Europe. Chronic hepatitis B affects 0.5-0.7% of the European population. In the last decade the prevalence of chronic hepatitis C was 0.13-3.26%. It is of great concern that about 90% of people in Europe infected by viral hepatitis are unaware of their status. Available data suggest the prevalence rate of NAFLD is 2-44% in the general European population (including obese children) and 42.6-69.5% in people with type 2 diabetes. Each of these four major causes of liver disease is amenable to prevention and treatment, reducing the burden of liver disease in Europe and saving lives. Further surveys are urgently needed to implement cost-effective prevention programmes and novel treatments to tackle this problem.
Copyright © 2012 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.