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Bile Duct Cancer Risks and Prevention

Risk factors can increase the chance of getting cancer. There are different kinds of risk factors. Some risk factors for cancer, like age and family history, cannot be prevented.

If you believe you may be at risk, you may benefit from consulting with a risk assessment specialist within one of Penn Medicine's programs at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Bile Duct Cancer Risk Factors

Risk factors increase the chance of developing bile duct cancer. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not always mean that someone will get cancer.

  • Chemical exposure. Exposure to the chemical thorotrast, a form of thorium dioxide, has been linked to the development of cholangiocarcinoma. Thorotrast was banned in the United States in the 1950s, but its effects may show up as late as 30 to 40 years after exposure.
  • Chronic liver disease. People with chronic liver disease such as hepatitis B or C, alcoholic liver disease or cirrhosis from other causes may be at an increased risk.
  • Congenital liver abnormalities. Choledochal cysts such as Caroli's diseases have been associated with an increased risk for cholangiocarcinomas.
  • Inflammatory diseases of the bile ducts. Studies show that people with inflammatory diseases of the bile ducts such as ulcerative colitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) may be at increased risk for developing cholangiocarcinomas.
  • Parasitic liver disease. Parasitic liver disease, such as an infection with the Chinese liver fluke, may increase the risk for developing cholangiocarcinomas.

Bile Duct Cancer Prevention

Most risk factors for bile duct cancer cannot be prevented, such as pre-existing conditions. However, there are some things you can do to prevent cholangiocarcinomas:

  • Control weight. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help prevent cancer.

Bile Duct Cancer Risk Assessment

Penn Medicine offers programs for patients who want to determine their risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer through the Abramson Cancer Center.

These programs offer knowledge about the presence of genetic risk factors for cancer and provide patients with important, sometimes life-saving options.