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Boxing great Joe Frazier had liver cancer, diabetes

November 08, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight boxing champion who bested Muhammad Ali in the 1971 "Fight of the Century," has died after a brief battle with liver cancer.
Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight boxing champion who bested Muhammad… (Elwood P. Smith/Philadelphia…)

Former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, who died Monday at the age of 67 after a brief bout with liver cancer, also had diabetes -- a major risk factor associated with the disease.

Diabetes has been associated with the highest percentage (34%) of cases of the most common type of liver cancer, according to research by the National Cancer Institute. (The next highest was alcohol-related disorders, with 24%). Men and older adults are at higher risk of the cancer as well.

Frazier, perhaps most famous for trouncing bitter rival Muhammad Ali in the 1971 "Fight of the Century," had reportedly been diagnosed with liver cancer in late September.

Though it's unclear exactly what type of cancer Frazier had -- there are many types of liver cancer, including ones that start in the bile duct or in the blood vessels -- hepatocellular carcinoma accounts for about three in every four cancers that begin in the liver, according to the American Cancer Society.

Liver cancer, says the National Institutes of Health encyclopedia page, is generally caused by scarring of the liver, known as cirrhosis. That scarring damage can come from, among other things, alcohol abuse, chronic infection by hepatitis B or C, or long-term inflammation of the liver.

"Aggressive surgery or a liver transplant can successfully treat small or slow-growing tumors if they are diagnosed early," according to the encyclopedia entry. "However, few patients are diagnosed early."

For more information on the disease and potential treatments, visit the Mayo Clinic's page on the subject.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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