Cirrhosis of the liver killed more women in the UK than cervical cancer in the 2000 with heavy drinking a contributory factor, according to the annual report from the UK's Chief Medical Officer.
Professor Liam Donaldson highlighted in his report the large rises in death rates from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis across the sexes and age groups.
In 45-54 year olds, there has been a greater than 4-fold increase amongst men since the early 1970s and a 3-fold increase in women. In 35-44 year olds, the rise has been even larger: an 8-fold increase in men and approaching a 7-fold increase in women.
He stresses that the rise in deaths from cirrhosis amongst younger people is of particular concern where binge drinking patterns appear to be common. In 2000 cirrhosis accounted for nearly 500 deaths in men aged 25-44 years and nearly 300 deaths in women of this age group.
Professor Donaldson added that the rising trends in deaths from cirrhosis seen in England are unusual compared with other European Union countries. Most European Union countries are showing declining trends although generally at levels still higher than the current England rates.
He noted that although there are many different causes of cirrhosis, it is often due to excess alcohol consumption. Another cause which is increasingly important is chronic viral hepatitis, especially hepatitis C. Alcohol consumption will increase the rate of progression of cirrhosis from whatever cause.
"There is a clear need for a comprehensive approach, across and beyond government, to address the consequences of problematic drinking, " Donaldson states in the report.