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Gallbladder Cancer Incidence and Death Rates

Quick Facts About Gallbladder Cancer

  • Gallbladder cancer is one of the few cancers more common among women than men.
  • Gallbladder cancer is much more common among American Indians and Alaskan Natives than among other populations.
  • The incidence of gallbladder cancer is going up among black men and women.
  • Gallbladder cancer is often found at a late stage with a poor outcome, often death.

The journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention published a CDC study looking at gallbladder cancer incidence and death rates from 2007 through 2011 and trends from 1999 through 2011 in the United States.

Gallbladder cancer is rare. It starts in the gallbladder, which is a small organ located under the liver. The gallbladder helps the digestive process by storing bile, a fluid made by the liver. Some people get gallstones (pieces of solid material that form in the gallbladder). Having gallstones increases the risk for getting gallbladder cancer, but most people with gallstones do not get gallbladder cancer. The causes of gallbladder cancer are not well known.

Very few population-based estimates for gallbladder cancer incidence and death rates in the United States have been published. CDC researchers used U.S. Cancer Statistics data to figure gallbladder cancer incidence (new cases) and death rates by sex, racial and ethnic group, age group, U.S. Census region, state, county-level poverty, and percent of county population not born in the United States.

Key Findings

  • About 3,700 people got gallbladder cancer and 2,000 people died from the disease in the United States each year from 2007 through 2011.
  • Gallbladder cancer is more common among women (1.4 cases and 0.7 deaths per 100,000 women) than men (0.8 cases and 0.5 deaths per 100,000 men). Two-thirds of cases and deaths occurred among women.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native people had the highest gallbladder cancer incidence and death rates (3.2 cases and 1.6 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • Gallbladder cancer incidence rates went down among all racial and ethnic groups except non-Hispanic blacks. The incidence rate went up 2.2% per year among non-Hispanic black men and women.
  • About 43% of gallbladder cancers were found after the cancer spread to regional organs or lymph nodes, and 42% were found after spreading to distant organs or lymph nodes.
  • Gallbladder cancer incidence and death rates were highest in the Northeast and Midwest U.S. Census regions.

Important Messages from This Study

Photo of a woman talkting to her doctor

Gallbladder cancer is a rare and deadly disease that affects women, American Indian, Alaska Native, and black people more than other groups. These disparities show that scientists need to learn more about what causes gallbladder cancer so they can find better ways to prevent it.

Risk factors for gallbladder cancer may include—

  • A personal or family history of gallstones.
  • Older age.
  • Being female.
  • Having an American Indian, Alaska Native, or black ethnicity.
  • Obesity.
  • Poor diet.
  • Being exposed to things that can cause cancer at work.
  • Having long-lasting infection and inflammation in the gallbladder.

We don’t know if gallbladder cancer can be prevented by tracking people who have these risk factors.

What CDC Is Doing

CDC is working to understand more about the causes and health impact of gallbladder cancer through the following activities—

Surveillance. CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries supports central cancer registries that collect and provide high-quality data.

Health Promotion and Education. CDC’s National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program helps states develop comprehensive cancer control plans that focus on emerging cancer issues, prevention, and treatment.

Citation

Henley SJ, Weir HK, Jim MA, Watson M, Richardson LC. Gallbladder cancer incidence and mortality, United States, 1999–2011. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 2015.

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