Cholangiocarcinoma and oral contraceptives

Lancet. 1980 Feb 9;1(8163):310-1. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(80)90804-1.


PIP: A 21-year-old woman presented with a 12-month history of epigastric pain, and for 3 months she had noticed a mass in the right hypochondrium. She had taken 'Norinyl-1' (norethisterone 1 mg and mestranol 50 mcg) for 5 years. She smoked 20 cigarettes a day but drank little alcohol. Physical examination revealed irregular hard hepatomegaly 10 cm below the right costal margin. Hepatitis B surface antigen was not detected in the serum and alpha fetoprotein levels were normal ( 10 M.R.C. units). A liver scan showed a large space-occupying lesion in the right lobe of the liver, and liver biopsy revealed a cholangicarcinoma with striking fibrous reaction. Multiple shadows consistent with metastases were present on chest X-ray, but no bony deposits were found on radiological skeletal survey or bone scan. The serum calcium was persistently high (2.74-2.92 mmol/l) but fell on prednisolone therapy. Serum parathyroid hormone levels were normal. A causal relation between oral contraceptives and hepatic adenoma is now generally accepted, and several patients with hepatocellular carcinoma have also been reported. We have been able to find only 1 previous report of cholangiocarcinoma in a young female taking oral contraceptives, and there is 1 report of this tumor in a man taking high doses of anabolic steroids for refractory anemia. This tumor has its peak incidence in the 6th decade and is very rare in the 3rd decade. The association with hypercalcemia due to pseudohyperparathyroidism is well recognized. In only some cases are parathyroid hormone levels raised, and the cause of the pseudohypercalcemia in our patient is unknown.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Bile Duct / chemically induced*
  • Adult
  • Anabolic Agents / adverse effects
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Contraceptives, Oral / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Contraceptives, Oral