Does Alcohol Cause Cholangiocarcinoma?

Daniel Catenacci MD

November 25, 2022

Alcohol Cause Cholangiocarcinoma

During the past decades, the consumption of alcohol has been a common habit of most people. Unfortunately, alcohol also has a lot of adverse effects on our health. Alcohol can cause various health problems like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. So, you may wonder if alcohol is responsible for the development of cholangiocarcinoma, a type of cancer that forms in the gallbladder.

Alcohol consumption

Increasing alcohol consumption is known to contribute to the development of a range of cancers, including gastrointestinal (GI). In the upper digestive tract, alcohol intake has been associated with colon, esophageal, and liver cancer. However, the exact mechanisms behind alcohol’s carcinogenic effects on these organs are poorly understood.

This review summarizes recent epidemiological evidence regarding alcohol and GI cancers, focusing on liver cancer. Alcohol is thought to trigger HCC development by promoting the excessive proliferation of hepatocytes and inhibiting the hepatic cell cycle. It also encourages ROS generation and oxidative stress.

Alcohol is metabolized by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ALDH). ALDH is a zinc metalloenzyme composed of eight different subunits. The ALDH2 gene is mutated in approximately 40% of Japanese people and has been reported to cause increased exposure to acetaldehyde (alcohol). However, the exact mechanisms of alcohol’s carcinogenic effects on hepatocytes and other organs are still unclear.

Exposure to dangerous chemicals

Several studies have shown that exposure to dangerous chemicals can increase the risk of bile duct cancer. The risk factors of this disease are unclear, but many are linked to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation leads to several molecular changes that may contribute to cancer.

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are associated with a higher risk of cholangiocarcinoma. Changes in the intestinal microbiome cause these diseases. During chronic inflammation, inflammatory mediators, such as IL-6, TNFa, and IL-1, act on intracellular pathways to promote cell proliferation and survival. These changes in cell proliferation cause genetic mutations, leading to cancer.

In addition to chronic inflammation, exposure to hazardous chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins may also increase the risk of bile duct tumors. The World Journal of Gastroenterology also published a study that found that nitrosamines and vinyl chloride may also increase the risk of bile cancer.

Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

Currently, there is no evidence to link alcohol consumption with esophageal adenocarcinoma. Although, alcohol does play a role in promoting the growth of squamous cell tumors in the esophagus. This type of cancer is characterized by the development of abnormal cells that grow uncontrollably in the esophagus. Moreover, alcohol is associated with poorer survival in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell cancer is the second most common type of esophageal cancer. It can occur anywhere along the esophagus. Most cases are SCC histology, but small cell carcinoma and other rare esophageal cancers also happen.

Squamous cell carcinoma is associated with a high rate of alcohol consumption. The ethanol in alcoholic beverages acts as a solvent for tobacco-specific carcinogens. It also has a direct toxic effect on the mucosa. It is also thought to be associated with nutritional deficiencies. Moreover, ethanol has a systemic effect. The alcohol in the bloodstream and saliva is converted into acetaldehyde.


Taking steps to prevent cholangiocarcinoma caused by alcohol is an excellent way to keep yourself healthy and feel better. It is also a good idea to learn more about the disease. A better understanding of it can help you manage stress and cope with the disease.

Cholangiocarcinoma is a type of cancer that develops in bile ducts. Bile ducts are thin tubes that connect the liver and the gallbladder. The bile ducts help the body digest fats.

Cancer develops when cells in bile ducts change their DNA. This causes the cells to multiply out of control and form tumors. A bile duct tumor can grow in the liver, small intestine, or other organs.

Cholangiocarcinoma can be treated by chemotherapy, surgery, and immunotherapy. In chemotherapy, drugs are injected into a vein and used to kill cancer cells. Surgery can remove parts of the pancreas, liver, or gallbladder. In palliative surgery, the doctor removes any blockages in the bile duct and relieves symptoms.