Ulcerative Colitis and Colon Cancer

People who have had an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis, are at an increased risk of developing colon cancer. Colon cancer affects approximately 5 percent of people with ulcerative colitis. And colon cancer risk increases with the length of time a person has had ulcerative colitis and how much of the colon it has affected. For example, if the entire colon has been affected, the risk of developing colon cancer may be as much as 32 times the normal rate.

An Overview of Ulcerative Colitis and Colon Cancer

About 5 percent of people with ulcerative colitis go on to develop colon cancer. The risk of cancer increases with the length of time and how much of the colon is affected by ulcerative colitis (the more colon involved, the greater the risk). For example, if only the rectum is involved (known as ulcerative proctitis) or the lower colon and rectum are involved, the risk of cancer is no higher than normal. However, if the entire colon is involved, the risk of cancer may be as much as 32 times the normal rate.
 

Ulcerative Colitis and Colon Cancer: Recommendations

Sometimes precancerous changes occur in the cells lining the colon. These changes are called "dysplasia." According to the 2002 updated guidelines for colon cancer screening, people who have had an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis throughout their colon for at least 8 years, and those who have had IBD in only the left colon for 12 to 15 years, should have a colonoscopy with biopsies every one to two years to check for dysplasia.
 
Such screening has not been proven to reduce the risk of colon cancer, but it may help identify cancer in its early stages, should it develop. These guidelines were produced by an independent expert panel and endorsed by numerous organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the American College of Gastroenterology, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, and the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America Inc., among others.
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Information on Ulcerative Colitis

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