The researchers suspect the economic recession beginning in 2008 was responsible for many people turning to alcohol.
"These are deaths of despair", said lead researcher Dr. Elliot Tapper, an assistant professor of gastroenterology at the University of MI.
It's similar to overdose deaths from the opioid epidemic. The fluid in the abdomen can make it look and feel "like you have multiple bowling balls" in your stomach, Tapper said.
He cautioned, however, that because this is an observational study, it can not prove cause and effect. Adults older than 75 have the most liver cancer deaths, and the death rate in that demographic increased from 29.8 to 40.2 per 100,000 people between 2000 and 2016.
Deaths from liver disease are spiking at an "alarming" rate in the United States as too many young binge drinkers put their health on the rocks, researchers said Wednesday. In many cases, liver disease can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle.
If people with alcohol-related disease stop drinking, "there's an excellent chance your liver will fix itself", Tapper said.
Dr. Raymond Chung is director of the Hepatology and Liver Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston. A lot of younger men are showing up very sick.
The ultimate problem, Tapper said: "We do not yet have a highly effective treatment for alcohol addiction". Deaths related to Cirrhosis have reportedly increased 65 percent between 1999 to 2016. In that time period, liver cancer rose from the ninth to the sixth leading cause of cancer death; it's expected to kill about 30,200 people this year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The biggest group of victims were people between the ages of 25 and 34 and the major cause was alcohol. Liver cancer deaths are so uncommon for people younger than 25 that they were not included in the NCHS report.
The greatest increase in deaths from cirrhosis was seen among whites, Native Americans and Hispanics, the researchers said.
Dr. Tapper's study adds that only one state, Maryland, had a decrease in cirrhosis deaths. However, heavy drinking is a risk factor for liver cancer and associated conditions, according to the ACS.
A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this week echoed these findings.