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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Cancer Risk
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) increases the risk of colon cancer. The amount of increased risk depends on the type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease of the colon), how much of the intestine is involved, and how long you have been ill. The cancer risk usually does not increase until you have had IBD for 8 years or longer.
Starting 8 years after diagnosis, most doctors recommend screening for colon cancer every 1 to 3 years. The type of screening depends on the extent of IBD. For people with ulcerative colitis that affects only the rectum (proctitis), the increase in cancer risk is slight. In those cases, some experts feel that screening is not needed. But sigmoidoscopy sometimes can be used. Colonoscopy is needed if more of the colon is involved. The doctor will take small tissue samples (biopsies) in the area affected by IBD to check for precancerous changes or cancer. If abnormal tissue is found, surgery may be done, usually to remove the colon (colectomy).
With appropriate screening, some cancers are found early and are curable.
The risk of cancer increases the longer a person has colitis of the entire colon.
Inflammatory bowel disease also increases the risk of melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer. Your doctor may recommend regular screening by a dermatologist.footnote 1
Singh S, et al. (2014). Inflammatory bowel disease is associated with an increased risk of melanoma: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology Hepatology, 12(2): 210–218. DOI: 10.1016/j.cgh.2013.04.033. Accessed March 25, 2015.
Current as of: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicinePeter J. Kahrilas MD - Gastroenterology
Current as of: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Peter J. Kahrilas MD - Gastroenterology
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