One of my New Year’s goals is to offer a blog on a regular basis!  I plan to regularly surf the medical literature looking for articles that relate to diet and the role it may play in  cancer risk.

Some types of cancer are in the news on a regular basis.  However, one type that is not frequently mentioned, is cancer of  the gallbladder and bile ducts (the tubes that drain the liver of bile for storage in the gallbladder).   These cancers are uncommon, but not rare, and have a poor prognosis, even if caught early enough for surgical resection.  Unfortunately, many patients are diagnosed with these cancers after they have  spread and become stage IV.   Although these patients may benefit from chemotherapy, but are not able to be cured and treatment options are limited. This is why I found a couple articles I just ran across quite interesting on diet and the risk of gallbladder and bile duct cancer.

Researchers recently reported in the January 2017 issue of the European Journal of Cancer, that adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet was associated with an approximately 58%  decreased  risk of developing gallbladder and large bile duct cancers.   This data was collected from 76,000 Swedish people who were followed in longitudinal fashion  for the development of certain health problems.  By evaluating surveys filled out at baseline and subsequently assessing the Swedish Cancer Registry for gallbladder and bile duct cancer cases, they found that individuals who adhered consistently to a Mediterranean diet had fewer cases of these cancers develop.  The conclusion of the authors was that “adherence to a healthy diet may play a role in reducing the risk of  (extrahepatic) biliary tract cancer.”

Another article I found interesting was published in the June issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (by the way, this is a pretty high-power journal in my field of cancer medicine).    It is well-established that excess intake of sugar-sweetened drinks increases blood sugar levels,  causes weight gain, and predisposes to type 2 diabetes—all of which have been associated with gallbladder and bile duct cancer.

This study followed approximately 71,000 Swedish people who completed a food frequency survey and who were free of cancer and diabetes at the beginning of the study.    Cases of bile duct and gallbladder cancer were found via the Swedish Cancer Registry.  Over a 13.4 year period of follow-up, the authors noted 127 cases of large bile duct and gallbladder cancers.  After adjusting for other risk factors, it was found that individuals who consumed two or more  sugar-sweetened drinks daily (³400 milliliters), had an approximately two-fold higher risk of developing  bile duct and gallbladder cancer compared to those with no intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Based on these studies, it seems to be a good idea to skip the soft drinks and Koolaid and stick to healthy drinks with your plant-rich meal!

Mark Marinella, MD, FACP,


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