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Cholangitis and subsequent gastrointestinal cancer risk: a Danish population-based cohort study
  1. Kirstine Kobberøe Søgaard,
  2. Rune Erichsen,
  3. Jennifer Leigh Lund,
  4. Dóra Körmendiné Farkas,
  5. Henrik Toft Sørensen
  1. Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Kirstine Kobberøe Søgaard, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Olof Palmes Allé 43-45, Aarhus N 8200, Denmark; kks{at}


Objective While patients with gastrointestinal cancer are at increased risk of cholangitis, it is less clear whether cholangitis is also a marker for occult gastrointestinal cancer. If an undiagnosed cancer obstructs the bile duct system and causes cholangitis, the short-term risk of cancer will appear increased. However, an increased long-term risk of cancer may originate from chronic inflammatory processes. We assessed the risk of a gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis subsequent to a cholangitis diagnosis during a 17-year period in Denmark.

Design We conducted a nationwide population-based cohort study by linking Danish medical registries during 1994–2010. We quantified the excess risk of cancer in cholangitis patients using relative (standardised incidence ratio; SIR) and absolute (excess absolute risk per 1000 person-years at risk; EAR) risk calculations.

Results 4333 patients with cholangitis (including 178 with primary sclerosing cholangitis) were followed for 17 222 person-years. During the follow-up period, 477 gastrointestinal cancers occurred versus 59 expected, corresponding to a SIR of 8.12 (95% CI 7.41 to 8.88). Risk was increased mainly for cancer in the small intestine (SIR 18.2; 95% CI 8.69 to 33.4), liver (SIR 16.3; 95% CI 11.6 to 22.2), gallbladder and biliary tract (SIR 70.9; 95% CI 59.0 to 84.4) and pancreas (SIR 31.7; 95% CI 27.8 to 36.0). During the first 6 months of follow-up, 314 patients were diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer, corresponding to a SIR of 49.8 (95% CI 44.4 to 55.6) and an EAR of 175.

Conclusions Cholangitis is a marker of occult gastrointestinal cancer.

  • Gastrointestinal Cancer
  • Cholestasis
  • Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
  • Cancer Epidemiology

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