Causes and risk factors of bile duct cancer

The causes of most bile duct cancers are unknown. But there are some factors that can increase your risk of developing it.

What are risk factors?

There are certain things that can increase the risk of developing bile duct cancer. These are called risk factors. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get cancer. And not having a risk factor does not mean that you will not get it.

If you are worried about bile duct cancer and would like to talk to someone, we're here. You can:

Age

Although younger people can have bile duct cancer, most people are diagnosed over the age of 60.

Inflammatory conditions

Some long-term inflammatory conditions can increase the risk of bile duct cancer. These are:

  • ulcerative colitis – which causes inflammation of the bowel
  • primary sclerosing cholangitis – a rare condition which causes inflammation of the bile ducts.

Abnormal bile ducts

People born with bile duct abnormalities, such as choledochal cysts, have a higher risk of developing bile duct cancer.

Chronic liver disease

People who have scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) have an increased risk of developing bile duct cancer. There are many different causes of cirrhosis, such as hepatitis B and C, fatty liver disease, or alcohol-related liver disease.

Infection

In Africa and Asia, a large number of bile duct cancers are thought to be caused by infection with a parasite called the liver fluke.

Bile duct cancer, like other cancers, is not infectious. It cannot be passed on to other people.