Bile duct cancer is a serious condition with a poor prognosis, especially if diagnosed at advanced stages. Medical intervention for bile duct cancer, especially surgery, is complex, and this is found to negatively impact the quality of life. Thus, it is important to identify the different bile duct cancer risk factors and adopt measures to mitigate the overall risk of this cancer type.
While anyone can be diagnosed with bile duct cancer, some individuals have a higher chance of developing this cancer type. This is because they carry certain risk factors that increase the chances of developing bile duct cancer. It is important to note that having these risk factors does not guarantee a bile duct cancer diagnosis but only increases one’s risk. The following are the important bile duct cancer risk factors:
Prolonged exposure to certain hazardous chemicals can increase one’s bile duct cancer risk. Occupational cholangiocarcinoma is a type of bile duct cancer that occurs due to chronic exposure to carcinogenic chemicals during occupation. Chemicals that increase bile duct cancer risk are nitrosamines, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls. People working in automotive industries and rubber plants have a higher risk of developing bile duct cancer.
Chronic liver diseases are one of the most common bile duct cancer risk factors. It is due to chronic inflammation of the liver and bile ducts, leading to genetic changes in these cells. Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a condition characterized by scar tissue in the liver. It enhances the risk of bile duct cancer. Other chronic liver diseases that increase bile duct cancer risk are non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, bile duct stones, liver cirrhosis, and hepatitis B and C infections.
Several congenital liver and bile duct conditions increase the risk of bile duct cancer. Caroli's disease is a rare inherited disorder that involves cystic dilatation of the intrahepatic duct. Biliary papillomatosis and Lynch syndrome are genetic conditions that are identified as bile duct cancer risk factors.
An inflammatory disease of the bile duct is also a bile duct cancer risk factor. Bile duct inflammation is known as cholangitis. Infection is the most common cause of cholangitis. However, the other conditions that may cause cholangitis include blood clots, tumors, and pancreatic swelling. Choledocholithiasis is also a bile duct cancer risk factor.
Parasitic liver disease is another bile duct cancer risk factor, especially in areas where liver flukes are common. The most common liver fluke species that may potentially cause bile duct cancer include Clonorchis sinensis and Opisthorchis viverrini. These parasites increase the risk of bile duct cancer through chronic irritation, inflammation, and increased cellular turnover.
Age is a non-modifiable bile duct cancer risk factor. Although bile duct cancer may occur at any age, it is relatively more common in people over the age of 60. The average age of diagnosis for intrahepatic bile duct cancer is reported to be about 70 years.
Those with a positive family history, wherein one or more of their immediate family members have bile duct cancer, have a higher chance of developing bile duct cancer than those who do not have a family history of this condition. However, the family history risk is quite low due to the rarity of the disease.
Several underlying medical conditions reportedly increase the risk of bile duct cancer. Obese people have a higher chance of developing bile duct cancer, as these patients have a high risk of gallstones, bile duct stones, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Other conditions that are associated with bile duct cancer risk include inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes.
Excessive consumption of alcohol for a significant period, along with tobacco consumption, may increase the risk of bile duct cancer.
Several people, especially those with high bile duct cancer risk, ask about how to prevent bile duct cancer or how to avoid bile duct cancer. Complete bile duct cancer prevention may not be possible; however, certain strategies may help lower its risk. The following are some of the effective bile duct cancer prevention measures:
Maintaining a healthy weight is an important bile duct cancer prevention measure. People with obesity are prone to developing various bile duct and liver-related conditions. These include NAFLD, gallstones, and bile duct stones. Further, obese people are at risk of developing insulin resistance, leading to diabetes. Diabetes is another risk factor for bile duct cancer.
Limiting the consumption of alcohol can increase the chances of bile duct cancer prevention. People with underlying liver diseases should completely avoid its consumption.
Some chemicals increase the risk of bile duct cancer, especially during occupational activities. As a bile duct cancer prevention measure, one must prevent chronic exposure to these chemicals with the help of protective equipment, such as face shields, chemical-resistant gloves, chemical-resistant glasses, respiratory equipment, shoe covers, etc.
Those diagnosed with bile duct cancer should carefully plan their diet, as certain foods can aggravate their condition and cause various problems. Some of the foods to avoid with bile duct cancer are:
Those with bile duct cancer should avoid fried and fatty foods, as these foods are difficult to digest. These foods aggravate the symptoms of bile duct cancer.
Patients with bile duct cancer may experience diarrhea due to inadequate fat digestion. High-fiber foods may worsen diarrhea and, thus, should be avoided.
Caffeine may cause gastric discomfort and, therefore, should not be consumed by patients with bile duct cancer.
Certain supplements may help in managing the symptoms of bile duct cancer. Protein supplements can manage fatigue and weakness, while enzyme supplements may assist digestion. However, before consuming any supplements, it is important to check with the doctor.
Cholangiocarcinoma risk factors include age, chronic liver disease, parasitic infections, hereditary conditions, family history, obesity, and a poor lifestyle. The different bile duct cancer prevention strategies include maintaining a healthy weight, refraining from alcohol and tobacco consumption, and avoiding chemical exposure. Fried foods and high-fiber diets should be avoided by patients with bile duct cancer.