U.S. Cancer

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

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.

Statistics at a Glance: The Burden of Cancer in the United States

[My Gallbladder cancer doesn’t even make the top 13!]

  • In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. and 609,640 people will die from the disease.
  • The most common cancers (listed in descending order according to estimated new cases in 2018) are
    • breast cancer,
    • lung and bronchus cancer,
    • prostate cancer,
    • colon and rectum cancer,
    • melanoma of the skin,
    • bladder cancer,
    • non-Hodgkin lymphoma,
    • kidney and renal pelvis cancer,
    • endometrial cancer,
    • leukemia,
    • pancreatic cancer,
    • thyroid cancer, and
    • liver cancer.
  • The number of new cases of cancer (cancer incidence) is 439.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 cases).
  • The number of cancer deaths (cancer mortality) is 163.5 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 deaths).
  • Cancer mortality is higher among men than women (196.8 per 100,000 men and 139.6 per 100,000 women). When comparing groups based on race/ethnicity and sex, cancer mortality is highest in African American men (239.9 per 100,000) and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander women (88.3 per 100,000).
  • In 2016, there were an estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. The number of cancer survivors is expected to increase to 20.3 million by 2026.
  • Approximately 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2013–2015 data).
  • In 2017, an estimated 15,270 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,790 died of the disease.
  • Estimated national expenditures for cancer care in the United States in 2017 were $147.3 billion. In future years, costs are likely to increase as the population ages and cancer prevalence increases. Costs are also likely to increase as new, and often more expensive, treatments are adopted as standards of care.

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