Long-term use of lithium and risk of colorectal adenocarcinoma: a nationwide case-control study

Br J Cancer. 2016 Mar 1;114(5):571-5. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2016.10. Epub 2016 Feb 11.


Background: Lithium accumulates in the colon and inhibits the enzyme GSK-3β that possesses anti-carcinogenic effects. We therefore examined the association between lithium use and colorectal cancer risk in a nationwide study.

Methods: We used the Danish Cancer Registry to identify all patients diagnosed with incident colorectal adenocarcinoma during 2000-2012 (n=36 248). Using a matched case-control approach, we estimated the association between long-term use (⩾5 years) of lithium and risk of colorectal adenocarcinoma using conditional logistic regression.

Results: Long-term use of lithium was similar among cases (0.22%) and controls (0.20%), yielding an odds ratio of 1.13 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.89-1.43) for colorectal adenocarcinoma. Dose-response, subgroup and other subanalyses returned neutral associations. However, ORs differed for colorectal subsites (proximal colon: 1.01 (95% CI, 0.66-1.55; distal colon: 1.52 (95% CI, 1.05-2.20); and rectum: 0.80 (95% CI, 0.50-1.30).

Conclusions: Lithium use was not associated with an overall increased risk of colorectal adenocarcinoma. The variation by subsite warrants further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Aged
  • Antimanic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colon / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lithium Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Rectum / pathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors


  • Antimanic Agents
  • Lithium Compounds