New Global Burden of Disease estimates for liver cirrhosis, published in BMC Medicine, suggest that cirrhosis caused over a million deaths in 2010, with a further million due to liver cancer and acute hepatitis. Cause-specific mortality data were very sparse for some regions, particularly in Africa, with no relevant mortality data for 58/187 countries. Liver disease involves infectious, malignant and chronic aetiologies with overlapping symptoms. Where available mortality data come from verbal autopsies, separating different types of liver disease is challenging. Cirrhosis is a disease of rich and poor alike; key public health risk factors such as alcohol consumption play an important role. Risk-reduction strategies such as controlling the price of alcohol are being widely discussed. Since these estimates used alcohol consumption as a covariate, they cannot be used to explore relationships between alcohol consumption and cirrhosis mortality. There is hope: coming generations of adults will have been vaccinated against hepatitis B, and this is envisaged to reduce the burden of fatal liver disease. But more complete civil registration globally is needed to fully understand the burden of liver disease.Please see related article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/145/abstract.