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Liver cancer incidence statistics

Incidence statistics for liver cancer by country in the UK, age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data on lifetime risk, the distribution of cases, morphology, geography, socio-economic variation, ethnicity and prevalence. 

Find out more about the coding and counting of this data


By country in the UK

Liver cancer is the 18th most common cancer in the UK (2011), accounting for 1% of all new cases. In males, it is the 14th most common cancer (2% of the male total), whilst it is the 19th in females (1%).1-4

In 2011, there were 4,348 new cases of liver cancer in the UK (Table 1.1): 2,776 (64%) in males and 1,572 (36%) in females, giving a male:female ratio of around 18:10.1-4 The crude incidence rate shows that there are 9 new liver cancer cases for every 100,000 males in the UK, and 5 for every 100,000 females.

In males, the European age-standardised incidence rate (AS rate) is significantly higher in Scotland than in England and Northern Ireland while it is significantly higher in Wales than in England (Table 1.1).1-4 In females there are no significant differences between the countries of the UK. 

Table 1.1: Liver Cancer (C22), Number of New Cases, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2011

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
Male Cases 2,229 171 310 66 2,776
Crude Rate 8.5 11.4 12.2 7.4 8.9
AS Rate 6.7 8.4 9.4 6.5 7.1
AS Rate - 95% LCL 6.5 7.2 8.3 4.9 6.8
AS Rate - 95% UCL 7.0 9.7 10.4 8.0 7.3
Female Cases 1,300 94 147 31 1,572
Crude Rate 4.8 6.0 5.4 3.4 4.9
AS Rate 3.1 3.6 3.4 2.3 3.1
AS Rate - 95% LCL 3.0 2.9 2.9 1.5 3.0
AS Rate - 95% UCL 3.3 4.3 4.0 3.0 3.3
Persons Cases 3,529 265 457 97 4,348
Crude Rate 6.6 8.6 8.7 5.3 6.9
AS Rate 4.8 5.9 6.1 4.1 5.0
AS Rate - 95% LCL 4.7 5.1 5.6 3.3 4.8
AS Rate - 95% UCL 5.0 6.6 6.7 5.0 5.1

Download this table XLS (33KB) PPT (168KB) PDF (26KB)

95% LCL and UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS rate

The latest analysis of liver cancer incidence rates throughout the UK reports significant variation between the former cancer networks, with the highest rates being in the North of England, and parts of Scotland and London. The lowest rates are in the South East of England, as well as parts of the Midlands and Wales.5

section reviewed 02/06/14
section updated 02/06/14


By age

Liver cancer incidence is strongly related to age, with the highest incidence rates being in older men and women. In the UK between 2009 and 2011, an average of 43% of cases were diagnosed in men and women aged 75 and over, and 81% were diagnosed in those aged 65 and over (Figure 1.1).1-4

Liver cancer rarely occurs in children. Age-specific incidence rates rise from around age 40-44, steadily for women and more steeply for men, with the highest rates in those aged 85+. Incidence rates are higher for males than for females, from age 40-44, with no significant sex differences in younger age groups. This gap is highest at age 55-59, when the male:female incidence ratio of age-specific rates (to account for the different proportions of males to females in each age group) is around 30:10 (Figure 1.1).1-4

Figure 1.1: Liver Cancer (C22), Average Number of New Cases per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2009-2011


Download this chart XLS (58KB) PPT (147KB) PDF (332KB)

section reviewed 02/06/14
section updated 02/06/14


Trends over time

Liver cancer incidence rates have increased overall in Great Britain since the mid-1970s (Figure 1.2).1-3 For both males and females, European AS incidence rates increased by around three times between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011 (224% increase for males, 227% for females), with much of this increase occurring since the early 1990s.

There are probably several reasons for this increase, including increasing past prevalence of heavy alcohol consumption and hepatitis B and C infection.6,7,10,11 Though alcohol intake has fallen in the UK in recent years, an impact on liver cancer incidence rates may not be seen for some time.8,9

Figure 1.2: Liver Cancer (C22), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, by Sex, Great Britain, 1975-2011


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Liver cancer trends for the UK are shown in Figure 1.3.1-4 Over the last decade (between 2000-2002 and 2009-2011), European AS incidence rates have increased by 45% and 33% in males and females, respectively.

Figure 1.3: Liver Cancer (C22), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, by Sex, UK, 1993-2011


Download this chart XLS (52KB) PPT (133KB) PDF (39KB)

Liver cancer incidence rates have increased overall for all of the broad age groups in Great Britain since the mid-1970s, again with most of the increase occurring since the 1990s (Figure 1.4).1-3 The largest increases have been in people aged 80+, with European AS incidence rates increasing by around four times (322%) between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011.

Figure 1.4: Liver Cancer (C22), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, By Age, Great Britain, 1975-2011


Download this chart XLS (58KB) PPT (135KB) PDF (51KB)

section reviewed 02/06/14
section updated 02/06/14

Lifetime risk

Lifetime risk is an estimation of the risk that a newborn child has of being diagnosed with cancer at some point during their life. It is a summary of risk in the population but genetic and lifestyle factors affect the risk of cancer and so the risk for every individual is different.

In 2010, in the UK, the lifetime risk of developing liver cancer is 1 in 120 for men and 1 in 215 for women.12

The lifetime risk for liver cancer has been calculated by the Statistical Information Team using the ‘Adjusted for Multiple Primaries’ (AMP) method; this accounts for the possibility that someone can have more than one diagnosis of liver cancer over the course of their lifetime.

section reviewed 25/04/13
section updated 25/04/13

Distribution of cases

Around half of all cases are liver cell cancers (51% in Great Britain between 2007 and 2009).1-3 These comprise liver cell carcinomas (ICD-10 C22.0), hepatoblastomas (ICD-10 C22.2), angiosarcomas of liver (ICD-10 C22.3), other sarcomas of liver (ICD-10 C22.4) and other specified carcinomas of liver (ICD-10 C22.7).13 Intrahepatic bile duct carcinomas (ICD-10 C22.1) make up a further 40% of the total, and the remaining 9% are of unspecified type.

Liver cell cancers  are more common than intrahepatic bile duct carcinomas in males (62% vs 30%, respectively), while intrahepatic bile duct carcinomas are the most common type in females (57% vs 33%, respectively).1-3

section reviewed 06/09/12
section updated 06/09/12

By morphology

The majority of liver cell cancers are hepatocellular carcinomas, while the majority of intrahepatic bile duct carcinomas are cholangiocarcinomas.13 There have been dramatic increases in the incidence of cholangiocarcinoma since the early 1970s (increasing 16-fold between 1971-1973 and 1999-2001 in England & Wales). Hepatocellular carcinoma incidence rates have also increased, but not by so much (around three-fold over the same time period). Some of the increase in cholangiocarcinoma incidence may be due to increased detection with new imaging techniques, such as computed tomography which became widely available in the mid-1980s; however this does not explain all of the rise.13 Similar increases in the incidence of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma have also been observed in the US between the mid-1970s and 1990s, both of which were thought to be real increases rather than as a result of increased detection.11,14

section reviewed 06/09/12
section updated 06/09/12


In Europe and worldwide

Liver cancer is the 14th most common cancer in Europe, with around 63,500 new cases diagnosed in 2012 (2% of the total). In Europe (2012), the highest World age-standardised incidence rates for liver cancer are in the Republic of Moldova for both men and women; the lowest rates are in Iceland for men and The Netherlands for women. UK liver cancer incidence rates are estimated to be the 14th lowest in males and Europe, and 17th lowest in females.18 These data are broadly in line with Europe-specific data available elsewhere.17

Liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, with more than 782,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012 (6% of the total). Liver cancer incidence rates are highest in Eastern Asia and lowest in South Central Asia, but this partly reflects varying data quality worldwide.18

Use our interactive map to explore the data for liver cancer.

Variation between countries may reflect different prevalence of risk factors, use of screening, and diagnostic methods.

section reviewed 11/06/14
section updated 11/06/14


By socio-economic variation

Liver cancer incidence is strongly related to deprivation and there is a clear trend of increasing rates with increasing levels of deprivation. The most recent England-wide data for 2000-2004 shows European AS incidence rates are around 83% higher for both men and women living in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived. It has been estimated that there would have been 430 fewer liver cases each year in England during 2000-2004 if all men and women had experienced the same rates as the most affluent.20 A study in Scotland for 2005-2009 showed that the gap in liver cancer incidence by deprivation is even higher there, with rates for the most deprived men and women being more than twice those for the least deprived.5 Data for liver cancer incidence by socio-economic group are not routinely available for Wales and Northern Ireland.21,22 The higher incidence of liver cancer in more deprived populations can be partly attributed to differences in smoking prevalence, which is much higher in deprived groups compared with affluent in Great Britain.23

section reviewed 06/09/12
section updated 06/09/12

By ethnicity

Age-standardised rates for White males with liver cancer range from 4.7 to 5.1 per 100,000. Rates for Asian males are significantly higher, ranging from 6.9 to 12.4 per 100,000 and the rates for Black males are also significantly higher, ranging from 6.9 to 13.6 per 100,000. For females there is a similar pattern - the age-standardised rates for White females range from 2.2 to 2.4 per 100,000, and rates for Asian and Black females are also significantly higher ranging from 3.1 to 6.0 per 100,000 and 2.5 to 5.4 per 100,000 respectively.25

Ranges are given because of the analysis methodology used to account for missing and unknown data. For liver cancer, 12,427 cases were identified; 24% had no known ethnicity.

section reviewed 02/06/14
section updated 02/06/14


Prevalence refers to the number of people who have previously received a diagnosis of cancer and who are still alive at a given time point. Some patients will have been cured of their disease and others will not.

In the UK around 2,600 people were still alive at the end of 2006, up to ten years after being diagnosed with liver cancer (Table 1.2).24

Table 1.2: Liver Cancer (C22), One, Five and Ten Year Cancer Prevalence, UK, 31st December 2006

1 Year Prevalence 5 Year Prevalence 10 Year Prevalence
Male 709 1,380 1,727
Female 404 728 899
Persons 1,113 2,108 2,626

Download this table XLS (30KB) PPT (120KB) PDF (17KB)

Worldwide, it is estimated that there were more than 613,000 men and women still alive in 2008, up to five years after their diagnosis.15

section reviewed 17/05/13
section updated 17/05/13

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References for liver cancer incidence

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, July 2013. Similar data can be found here:
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, May 2013. Similar data can be found here:
  3. Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit on request, June 2013. Similar data can be found here:
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, June 2013. Similar data can be found here:
  5. Liver cancer (C21) European age-standardised incidence rates by UK Cancer Networks, 2008-2010. These data were extracted from the UK Cancer Information Service, version 4.5b 001 on 16/01/2014
  6. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). World cancer report 2008 Lyon: IARC; 2008.
  7. Parkin DM, Boyd L, Walker LC. 16. The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010. Brit J C 2011;105 Suppl 2:S77-81.
  8. Office for National Statistics. Smoking and drinking among adults, 2009 report. 2011.
  9. Office for National Statistics. Statistical bulletin. Alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom, 2010. 2012. (PDF 121.8KB)
  10. Parkin DM. 11. Cancers attributable to infection in the UK in 2010. Brit J C 2011;105 Suppl 2:S49-56.
  11. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). Trends in incidence of primary liver cancer subtypes. London: NCIN; 2012.
  12. Lifetime risk was calculated using 2010 data for males and 2008-2010 data for females by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, 2012.
  13. West J, Wood H, Logan RF, et al. Trends in the incidence of primary liver and biliary tract cancers in England and Wales 1971-2001. Brit J C 2006;94:1751-8.
  14. Shaib YH, Davila JA, McGlynn K, et al. Rising incidence of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma in the United States: a true increase? J Hepatol 2004;40:472-7.
  15. Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, et al. Estimates of worldwide burden of cancer in 2008: GLOBOCAN 2008. Int J C 2010;127:2893-917.
  16. Ferlay J, Bray F, Forman D, et al. GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, Cancer incidence and mortality worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010. Available from Accessed May 2011.
  17. Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013. Available from:, accessed December 2013.
  18. Ferlay J, Steliarova-Foucher E, Lortet-Tieulent J, et al.Cancer incidence and mortality patterns in Europe: Estimates for 40 countries in 2012. European Journal of Cancer (2013) 49, 1374-1403.
  19. European Age-Standardised rates calculated by the Cancer Research UK Statistical Information Team, 2011, using data from GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, IARC, version 1.2.
  20. National Cancer Intelligence Network Cancer incidence by deprivation England, 1995-2004. (PDF 1.04MB) 2008.
  21. Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit. Cancer in Wales, 1995-2009: A comprehensive report. 2011.
  22. Donnelly DW, Gavin AT, Comber H. Cancer in Ireland 1994-2004: A comprehensive report. (PDF 7.77MB): Northern Ireland Cancer Registry/National Cancer Registry, Ireland; 2009.
  23. Office for National Statistics. General lifestyle survey overview. A report on the General Lifestyle Survey 2010 (PDF 1.31MB). 2012.
  24. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). One, five and ten-year cancer prevalence by cancer network, UK, 2006. London: NCIN; 2010.
  25. National Cancer Intelligence Network and Cancer Research UK. Cancer Incidence and Survival by Major Ethnic Group, England, 2002-2006. 2009.
Updated: 29 October 2013