A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed.
But having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean that a person will get the disease. And many people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors.
Scientists have found several risk factors that make a person more likely to develop gallbladder cancer. Many of these are related in some way to chronic inflammation (irritation and swelling) in the gallbladder.
Gallstones are the most common risk factor for gallbladder cancer. Gallstones are pebble-like collections of cholesterol and other substances that form in the gallbladder and can cause chronic inflammation. At least 3 out of 4 people with gallbladder cancer have gallstones when they are diagnosed. But gallstones are very common, and gallbladder cancer is quite rare, especially in the United States. Most people with gallstones never develop gallbladder cancer.
Porcelain gallbladder is a condition in which the wall of the gallbladder becomes covered with calcium deposits. It sometimes occurs after long-term inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), which can be caused by gallstones. People with this condition have a higher risk of developing gallbladder cancer (possibly because both conditions can be related toinflammation).
In the United States, gallbladder cancer occurs more than twice as often in women.Gallstones and gallbladder inflammation are important risk factors for gallbladder cancer and are also much more common in women than men.
Patients with gallbladder cancer are more often overweight or obese than people without this disease. Obesity is also a risk factor for gallstones, which might help explain this link.
Gallbladder cancer is seen mainly in older people, but younger people can develop it as well. The average age of people when they are diagnosed is 72. More than 2 out of 3 people with gallbladder cancer are 65 or older when it is found.