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Postscript

July 23, 2018

Annual deaths from cirrhosis jumped between 1999 and 2016. Closely monitor your alcohol intake, a UW Medicine specialist suggests. 

Flickr | Tucker Keatley
Cocktails' resurgent popularity may also keep liver specialists busy into the future.

Blame the seasonal must-have cocktail. Or the craft beer wave. Or boxes of wine. The number of millennials dying of cirrhosis of the liver has risen about 10 percent each year since 1999, according to a report published last week in the British Medical Journal.

From 1999 to 2016 in the United States, annual deaths from cirrhosis jumped by 65 percent (to 34,174) and annual deaths from liver cancer doubled (to 11,073), University of Michigan researchers reported.

“Yes, I have definitely seen people, late 30s and early 40s, who have basically killed their liver by drinking so much; the damage is irreversible. It’s heartbreaking because it’s not like they can get a liver transplant right away,” said Dr. John Scott, medical director for the liver clinic at Harborview Medical Center.

How much booze is too much?

It partly depends somewhat on a person’s size, but generally, “We get concerned if a woman has more than four drinks a day or a man has more than five. That’s problem drinking. I typically tell my patients that a safe level is one or less for a woman or two or less for a man, Scott said.  “If the patient has a history of alcohol abuse or cirrhosis, I suggest no alcohol at all. I think people forget that hard alcohol has more alcohol by weight than something like beer.”

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