Burden of liver cancer mortality by county, race, and ethnicity in the USA, 2000–19

Published February 28, 2024, in The Lancet Public Health (opens in a new window)



Understanding how specific populations are affected by liver cancer is important for identifying priorities, policies, and interventions to mitigate health risks and reduce disparities. This study aims to provide comprehensive analysis of rates and trends in liver cancer mortality for different racial and ethnic populations in the USA nationally and at the county level from 2000 to 2019.


We applied small-area estimation methods to death registration data from the US National Vital Statistics System and population data from the US National Center for Health Statistics to estimate liver cancer mortality rates by county, racial and ethnic population, and year (2000–19) in the USA. 

Race and ethnicity were categorised as non-Latino and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN), non-Latino and non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander (Asian), non-Latino and non-Hispanic Black (Black), Latino or Hispanic (Latino), and non-Latino and non-Hispanic White (White). Estimates were adjusted using published misclassification ratios to correct for inaccuracies in race or ethnicity as recorded on death certificates, and then age-standardised. Mortality rate estimates are presented for all county and racial and ethnic population combinations with a mean annual population greater than 1000.


Nationally, the age-standardised liver cancer mortality rate increased between the years 2000 (4·2 deaths per 100 000 population [95% uncertainty interval 4·1–4·3]) and 2016 (6·0 per 100 000 [5·9–6·1]), followed by a stabilisation in rates from 2016 to 2019 (6·1 per 100 000 [6·0–6·2]). 

Similar trends were observed across the AIAN, Black, Latino, and White populations, whereas the Asian population showed an overall decrease across the 20-year study period. Qualitatively similar trends were observed in most counties; however, the mortality rate and the rate of change varied substantially across counties, both within and across racial and ethnic populations. 

For the 2016–19 period, mortality continued to increase at a substantial rate in some counties even while it stabilised nationally. Nationally, the White population had the lowest mortality rate in all years, while the racial and ethnic population with the highest rate changed from the Asian population in 2000 to the AIAN population in 2019. 

Racial and ethnic disparities were substantial: in 2019, mortality was highest in the AIAN population (10·5 deaths per 100 000 [9·1–12·0]), notably lower for the Asian (7·5 per 100 000 [7·1–7·9]), Black (7·6 per 100 000 [7·3–7·8]), and Latino (7·7 per 100 000 [7·5–8·0]) populations, and lowest for the White population (5·5 [5·4–5·6]). 

These racial and ethnic disparities in mortality were prevalent throughout the country: in 2019, mortality was higher in minoritised racial and ethnic populations than in the White population living in the same county in 408 (87·7%) of 465 counties with unmasked estimates for the AIAN population, 604 (90·6%) of 667 counties for the Asian population, 1207 (81·2%) of 1486 counties for the Black population, and 1073 (73·0%) of 1469 counties for the Latino population.


Although the plateau in liver cancer mortality rates in recent years is encouraging, mortality remains too high in many locations throughout the USA, particularly for minoritised racial and ethnic populations. 

Addressing population-specific risk factors and differences in access to quality health care is essential for decreasing the burden and disparities in liver cancer mortality across racial and ethnic populations and locations.


US National Institutes of Health (Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Intramural Research Program, National Cancer Institute; National Institute on Aging; National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; Office of Disease Prevention; and Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research).

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GBD US Health Disparities Collaborators. Burden of liver cancer mortality by county, race, and ethnicity in the USA, 2000–19: a systematic analysis of health disparities. The Lancet Public Health. 28 February 2024. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(24)00002-1.