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Lúdvíksdóttir Dóra; Skúlason, Hafsteinn; Jakobsson, Finnbogi; Thórisdóttir, Anna; Cariglia, Nick; Magnússon, Bjarki; Thjodleifsson, Bjarni
European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: January 1997


The mortality from liver cirrhosis in Iceland is the lowest in the Western world.


To study the epidemiology of liver cirrhosis mortality and morbidity in Iceland and to obtain a reliable separation between alcoholic cirrhosis (AC) and nonalcoholic cirrhosis (NAC) by using multiple data sources.


The study included the whole population of Iceland. Mortality was studied through death certificate data for the period 1951-90 and morbidity (clinical incidence) through hospital, autopsy and biopsy records for the period 1971-90.


The average mortality for AC in age group 20 years and older was 8.6 and for NAC 19.2 per 106/year and the average clinical incidence was 22.1 per 106/year for AC and 25.9 per 106/year for NAC. In the morbidity study 44% of cases were due to AC. In the mortality study 24% of cases were due to AC but the data suggested an underreporting of AC for males at a rate of 30%. There was a significant decrease in AC mortality with time but no change in NAC. Average alcohol consumption of inhabitants aged over 15 years increased from 2.1 to 4.9 litres per year (130%) during the period 1951-90.


The incidence of cirrhosis in Iceland is very low for both AC and NAC, accounting for only 0.2% of total deaths. The reasons are unknown. The low incidence of AC in Iceland is probably partly due to low alcohol consumption. The decreasing incidence of AC despite 130% increase in alcohol consumption is thought to be due to intensive treatment of alcoholism. A low prevalence of hepatitis B and C probably contributes to the low incidence of NAC.

From the 1Department of Medicine, National University Hospital, 2Akureyri District Hospital and 3Department of Pathology, University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland.

Requests for reprints to Bjarni Thjodleifsson MD PhD, Department of Medicine, Landspítalinn, University Hospital, IS-101 Reykjavík, Iceland.

The study was supported by The Research Fund of The University of Iceland.

Date received: 16 April 1996; revised: 6 June 1996; accepted: 1 October 1996.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.