What is the Connection Between Colitis and Cancer?

Alex Paul

Colitis is a serious condition that can have a number of different side effects. Ulcerative colitis has been shown to increase the risk of the person developing colon cancer — albeit only by a small amount. The chance of developing cancer depends on the exact type of colitis and how much colon is involved in the condition. Although there is thought to be a link between colitis and cancer, it isn’t as strong as once believed by many scientists.

Prescription medication for colitis.
Prescription medication for colitis.

Colitis is an inflammation of the colon that can be caused by a number of different factors. For this reason there is a link between colitis and colon cancer although not a strong one. Symptoms of colitis include diarrhea and pain in the abdomen depending on the exact type involved. There may also be blood present in the person’s stool.

Ulcerative colitis slightly increases the chances of developing cancer.
Ulcerative colitis slightly increases the chances of developing cancer.

The increased risk of the link between colitis and cancer depends on the type of colitis. People with pancolitis have the greatest chance of developing cancer as a result of the condition. Although there is a link between colitis and cancer, there is no evidence to show that the severity of the condition increases or decreases the risk and hence people with severe colitis aren’t the most likely to get cancer later in life.

The exact increase in risk for developing colon cancer is thought to be around 10% for ten years and as much as 40% after 30 years of suffering from the problem. This percentage varies greatly depending on the type of condition and various other factors, however, so this is not a definitive rule. It is possible to see from the statistics that the chance of developing colon cancer increases over time although the same could also be said for people without colitis. Even so, a person with colitis should get regular tests and screenings in order to diagnose any potential problems quickly.

Although there is a proven link between colitis and cancer, studies have shown that this link may not be as strong as first thought. Research conducted in the UK has suggested that there may be less of an increased risk of developing colon cancer. There are also current studies researching how to prevent the small but significant increased risk. The general consensus is that although there is a small increased risk of developing colon cancer people with colitis should not be overly worried as long as they get regular screenings.

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