Why Gallbladder Removal May Increase Risk of Colon Cancer


What is a Cholecystectomy?

Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder where bile is stored.

What is Bile?

Check out this video about bile to see how bile is important in digestion and absorption.

Why Remove the Gallbladder?

The modern diet is rich in fatty foods with saturated fats and triglycerides which increase the workload on the liver and can cause stones to form in the gallbladder when there is not enough bile or excess fatty foods. When these stones become inflamed they can cause severe pain requiring gallbladder removal. The gallbladder is removed to avoid rupture and exposure of the contents of the gallbladder to the rest of your abdominal contents which could be devastating and cause severe inflammation and infection.

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is cancer of your large intestines. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and over 1.8 million cases were diagnosed in 2018. It’s incidence has risen dramaticallycolon cancer everyday health

How Does Cholecystectomy Increase the Risk of Colon Cancer?

One theory proposed by researchers in China focuses on bile acids, generated by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Without a gallbladder, the bile acids cannot be stored so there is more exposure of bile acids to the intestines abnormally.

Why Does Bile Acid Exposure Matter?

In the 1940’s Zhang writes, it was proposed that bile acids, albeit necessary for normal digestion, can be carcinogenic. They go on to say “high physiological levels of BAs can lead to apoptosis resistance, genomic instability and ultimately, to cancer”.

Western Diet & Lifestyle

If you haven’t read Fast Food Genocide by Joel Fuhrman I highly recommend it. Our diet has changed after World War II to include unhealthy foods like high fructose corn syrup, carcinogenic meats, preservatives, and an unhealthy focus on dairy and fats. These changes itself increase our risk of colon cancer. Removal of your gallbladder may be associated with unhealthy eating in general and a greater risk of colon cancer.

What Else Can I Do?

You should speak to your doctor because there are many factors involved. The gallbladder is removed when absolutely necessary to avoid infection, rupture and damage to your vital organs but there are alternatives. The least costly and safest option is available: change your diet.

What Should I Eat?

Your diet should consist of fruits and vegetables but don’t be afraid of carbohydrates. Especially starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, whole grain rice, vegetables pastas.

Good and bad food.

What Should I Not Eat?

Fast food, white flour products, sodas, meats(including chicken) which have high fat content and little to no fiber.

Why is Fiber Important?

I’ll answer that with a question. No one likes being constipated? Neither does your body. The benefits of fiber are well known and have been found to decrease risk of colon cancer.

How Can I Be Screened for Colon Cancer?

There are many ways to be screened. The most diagnostic and therapeutic is a colonoscopy. This is a procedure that is often curative if you have a precancerous polyp. Speak with your doctor to see if you are a candidate. For those that don’t want to wait, ask your doctor for a stool test.

What Kind of Stool Test?

3 common forms of stool testing for colon cancer are, Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) and Cologuard. All 3 require a prescription and you should speak with your doctor to see which one is best for you. If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, colon cancer screening is even more important so make it a priority.

Thanks for reading.


Zhang Y, Liu H, Li L, et al. Cholecystectomy can increase the risk of colorectal cancer: A meta-analysis of 10 cohort studies. PLoS One. 2017;12(8):e0181852. Published 2017 Aug 3. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181852

Jia W, Xie G, Jia W. Bile acid-microbiota crosstalk in gastrointestinal inflammation and carcinogenesis. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017;15(2):111-128.

Feng HY, Chen YC. Role of bile acids in carcinogenesis of pancreatic cancer: An old topic with new perspective. World J Gastroenterol. 2016;22(33):7463-77.

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