Epidemiologic aspects of gallbladder cancer: A case-control study of the SEARCH Program of the International Agency for Research on Cancer

W. A. Zatonski, A. B. Lowenfels, P. Boyle, P. Maisonneuve, H. B. Bueno De Mesquita, P. Ghadirian, M. Jain, K. Przewozniak, P. Baghurst, C. J. Moerman, A. Simard, G. R. Howe, A. J. McMichael, C. C. Hsieh, A. M. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There are few previous epidemiologic studies of gallbladder cancer, a rare but nearly always lethal gastrointestinal cancer with a demonstrated greater frequency in adult women and older subjects of both sexes, and also in the members of populations throughout central and eastern Europe and certain racial groups such as native American Indians. Unfortunately, the prospects for the prevention of this form of cancer are poor. Purpose: Our purpose in conducting this study was to investigate possible new risk factors for gallbladder cancer and to strengthen our understanding of established causal agents that may be involved in this disease. Methods: A large, collaborative, multicenter, case-control study of cancer of the gallbladder was conducted in five centers located in Australia (Adelaide), Canada (Montreal and Toronto), The Netherlands (Utrecht), and Poland (Opole) from January 1983 through July 1988. Case subjects with gallbladder cancer were accrued by the centers from hospital pathology records and from reports to regional cancer registries. Cancer diagnosis was confirmed by either biopsy, cholecystectomy, or at the time of autopsy. Control subjects were randomly assigned at each center from the population. The pooled analysis included 196 case subjects and 1515 control subjects (who did not report previous cholecystectomy). Ninety-eight percent of the subjects were white. Personal interviews of case subjects, control subjects, and surrogates (spouse or next of kin) were conducted by trained personnel. Results: After adjusting for potential confounding factors (age, sex, center, type of interview, years of schooling, alcohol intake, and lifetime cigarette smoking), a history of gallbladder symptoms requiring medical attention (e.g., reduced bile secretion from the gallbladder into the small intestine due to obstructions of the common bile or cystic ducts) was the major risk factor associated with this form of cancer (odds ratio [OR] = 4.4; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.6-7.5). This association was present even in subjects who had their first gallbladder examination because of symptoms present more than 20 years earlier (OR = 6.2; 95 % CI = 2.8-13.4). Other variables associated with gallbladder cancer risk included an elevated body mass index, high total energy intake, high carbohydrate intake (after adjustment for total energy intake), and chronic diarrhea. All of these risk factors have been previously associated with gallstone disease. Conclusions: These findings are consistent with a major role of gallstones, or risk factors for gallstones, in the cause of gallbladder cancer. Additional information on whether or not screening high-risk subjects for gallstones or gallbladder cancer is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1132-1138
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 6 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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