Does gall bladder surgery raise your risk of colon cancer? The association between cholecystectomy and an increase in colon cancer was found in some large retrospective studies over the years. However, a review of studies published in 2015 may put most fears to rest.

Systematic Review Finds No Association Between Cholecystectomy and Risk of GI Cancers

This review of studies was a big one, looking at 75 different studies and five previous meta-analyses. This study weighed how well the other studies were designed and the strength of their conclusions. Overall, the review found no clear association between cholecystectomy and cancer anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract.

They found inconsistent reports and no strong evidence for cancers of the small bowel and right-sided colon cancer being related to cholecystectomy. When looking at good quality studies, there was no association with cancers of the small bowel and left-sided colon and cholecystectomy, or of distal colon and rectal cancers.

The conclusion was, “This systematic review has found contradictory evidence of an association between a history of cholecystectomy and gastro-intestinal tract cancers. Based on current evidence, there is no clear association between cholecystectomy and cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract.” They added that more well-designed studies should be done.

Earlier studies that specifically looked at colorectal cancer occuring after gall bladder removal had found associations and some even suggested that it raised the risks as much as 56%. However, newer large studies showed no association between gall bladder removal surgery and colorectal cancer.

Previous Study Raised Alarm

Many alarming headlines were produced by a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology that found that gall bladder removal surgery increases the risk of developing colon cancer. Researchers studied the records of more than 55,000 men and women in the UK General Practice Research Database. They found that those who had undergone gall bladder removal surgery were more likely to develop colon cancer, but not more likely to develop rectal cancer.

The researchers stressed that the increased colon cancer risk shouldn’t be a deciding factor when thinking about whether or not to have your gall bladder removed.

Should You Worry About Colon Cancer if You Have Your Gall Bladder Removed?

The newer studies should calm fears about an increased risk for colon cancer following gall bladder surgery. But the fact that some studies found the association may encourage you to do some things to try to negate the risk a bit. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and scheduling a colonoscopy are two steps you can take. We are all at risk from colon cancer, gall bladder surgery or not.

This bit of knowledge is also one more piece of information you can give your husband, wife, partner, or parent who keeps putting off colorectal cancer screening. Who knows what further studies will show raises the risks you can’t avoid? What can prevent colon cancer is getting screened and having pre-cancerous polyps removed if detected.


Coats M, Shimi SM. “Cholecystectomy and the risk of alimentary tract cancers: a systematic review.” World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Mar 28;21(12):3679-93. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i12.3679.

Shao, T. and Yang, Y. “Cholecystectomy and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer.” American Journal of Gastroenterology 100.8 (Aug. 2005): 1813-1820. PubMed. 26 Aug. 2006 [].

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