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Byline: Jane Kirby

DEATHS from liver disease and cancer have nearly doubled in the West Midlands over the last decade - and are nearly a fifth higher than the average for Britain.

The spiralling cases - up from 671 in 1997 to 1,184 in 2008 - have been blamed hepatitis C cases going undiagnosed.

Liver disease is the fifth biggest killer after heart disease, cancer, stroke and lung disorders, and the number of deaths has risen 60 per cent nationally - but, alarmingly they are up by 76 per cent in the West Midlands.

contributory factor, as well as alcoholism, according to MPs.

A report, from the All-Party Parliamentary Hepatology Group (APPHG), said hepatitis C's exact contribution was "underestimated" because so few people are diagnosed.

Around 250,000 Britons do not realise they have the disease because it can remain symptomless for years, it has been estimated.

Sufferers include the late Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick, actress Pamela Anderson, Stones guitarist Keith Richards and singers Marianne Faithfull and Natalie Cole.

Anyone given a blood transfusion before September 1991 or blood products before 1986 could be at risk. Another major route of transmission is people sharing needles for injecting drugs.

Less common ways of passing on the virus include from mother to child before or during birth, unprotected sex and having medical and dental treatment abroad.

The report, In The Dark, pointed to a "worrying shortage of basic monitoring in hepatitis C services".

Charles Gore, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, said the disease could be eradicated in the next 30 years if the Government committed to increasing diagnosis. Department of Health spokesman said: "The NHS has increased spending on Nice-recommended drugs for hepatitis C from about pounds 17 million in 2004 to about pounds 37 million in 2008. The National Clinical Director for Liver Disease is currently reviewing options on how best to address these issues."
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Aug 31, 2010
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