Gallbladder cancer decreasing in men, late-stage diagnosis on the rise

Gallbladder cancer cases are relatively rare, making it difficult to track trends and incidence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 3,700 people were diagnosed with gallbladder cancer and 2,000 people died from the disease from 2007 to 2011. This cancer is often not diagnosed until in its late stages, making it challenging to treat. 

According to new research, gallbladder cancer rates have decreased in men in recent years but not in women. The researchers also found that more people overall are being diagnosed with late-stage disease.

Using incidence from the government’s national database, the study found a total of 18,124 gallbladder cases that occurred from 1973 to 2009.

Overall gallbladder cancer rates have steadily decreased for men since 1973. Rates for women decreased only until  the mid-1990s. Late-stage diagnosis of gallbladder cancer has been on the rise since 2001 after a decreasing pattern since 1973. The significance is that earlier diagnosis correlates to better outcomes.

The highest survival rates were among patients who received both surgical and radiation treatment. More research is needed to better understand these findings.

The gallbladder - located under the liver — stores bile, a fluid needed for digestion. Changing risk exposures in the population include obesity, the study notes. AICR’s latest report on gallbladder cancer found that excess body fat is a cause of this cancer.

The CDC also lists obesity as a risk factor for this cancer, along with other possible factors that include:

  • A personal or family history of gallstones
  • Older age
  • Being female
  • Having an American Indian, Alaska Native, or black ethnicity
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Being exposed to things that can cause cancer at work
  • Having long-lasting infection and inflammation in the gallbladder

The study was supported by Institutional funds.

Source: Rubayat Rahman et al. “Trend Analysis and Survival of Primary Gallbladder Cancer in the United States: A 1973 – 2009 Population-based Study.” Cancer Med. 2017 Apr; 6(4): 874–880.

Gallbladder Cancer Incidence and Death Rates. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Page last updated: September 1, 2015.

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      Published on May 3, 2017

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