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Researchers have identified several cholangiocarcinoma risk factors that are believed to increase an individual’s likelihood of developing bile duct cancer. Some risk factors, like tobacco use, are lifestyle related and can be avoided, but others, like age and genetics, cannot be controlled. In any event, it is important to emphasize that risk factors are not determinative. Many people who have one or more risk factors never develop bile duct cancer, while others are diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma despite having no known risk factors.

Risk factors for cholangiocarcinoma include:

  • Chronic inflammation of the bile duct, which can result from conditions like primary sclerosing cholangitis, bile duct stones, choledochal cysts, liver fluke infections, cirrhosis and the hepatitis B and C viruses, as well as abnormalities that cause a backflow of digestive juices into the bile duct
  • Polycystic liver disease
  • Caroli syndrome (a dilation of the intrahepatic bile ducts that is present at birth)
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Prior exposure to Thorotrast (thorium dioxide), a radioactive substance that was used as a contrast agent for X-rays until the 1950s
  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Age (most diagnoses are confirmed after age 60)
  • A family history of cholangiocarcinoma

Prevention of Cholangiocarcinoma

There are many ways that you can lower your risk for developing cholangiocarcinoma. These include:

  • Drink responsibly – Alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis, a risk factor for developing this type of cancer.
  • Avoid hazardous chemicals – Many different types of hazardous chemicals can increase the risk of bile duct cancer. Individuals who work in automotive industries or rubber plants are especially at risk.
  • Be careful when traveling – Drink purified water and eat well-cooked food when traveling to areas of the world where liver flukes are common.

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Approach to Cholangiocarcinoma

Individuals who have questions or concerns about cholangiocarcinoma risk factors are encouraged to consult with an experienced specialist. Moffitt Cancer Center has a highly experienced, multispecialty team of bile cancer experts who collaboratively evaluate each patient and develop individualized treatment plans. Moffitt is also a nationally recognized leader in the research, diagnosis and treatment of cholangiocarcinoma, and we are well-positioned to provide our patients with access to the latest treatment options, including promising clinical trials, in a single, convenient location.

If you’d like to learn more about cholangiocarcinoma risk factors, the bile duct cancer experts at Moffitt can help you assess your individual risk profile and provide advice on prevention and early detection. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.