Cholecystectomy and the risk of colorectal cancer

Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Aug;100(8):1813-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.41610.x.


Objectives: Cholecystectomy has been implicated as a possible risk factor for colorectal cancer. However, the clinical evidence and the underlying mechanism for this association are still inconclusive. We conducted a population-based study to further clarify this association.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study among all patients aged 40 yr or older in the General Practice Research Database from the United Kingdom. We excluded patients with <1 yr of colorectal cancer-free database follow-up as well as those patients who developed colorectal cancer within 1 yr after their cholecystectomies. Crude and adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRRs) were determined using Poisson regression.

Results: The incidence rate of colorectal cancer among cholecystectomy patients (n = 55,960) was 119 (95% CI: 106-133) per 100,000 person-years, compared to 86 (95% CI: 83-90) per 100,000 person-years among patients without a cholecystectomy (n = 574,668). Among the covariates examined, only sex and age were significant confounders and were included in the adjusted analyses. The adjusted IRR of colorectal cancer associated with cholecystectomy was 1.32 (95% CI: 1.16-1.48, p < 0.001). The positive association was present for colon cancer (adjusted IRR 1.51, 95% CI: 1.30-1.74, p < 0.001), but not for rectal cancer (adjusted IRR 1.00, 95% CI: 0.85-1.17, p= 0.99). The pattern of association was similar in men versus women. A similar association with colon cancer was observed for cholelithiasis.

Conclusions: Cholecystectomy is associated with a modestly increased risk of colon cancer but not for rectal cancer. Lithogenic bile could be the underlying mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cholecystectomy / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colonic Neoplasms / etiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Risk Factors