Decreasing risk of colorectal cancer in patients with inflammatory bowel disease

The risk of colorectal cancer has decreased markedly among patients with ulcerative colitis over the past 30 years according to a nationwide Danish study of 47,374 patients with inflammatory bowel disease. The study is newly published in Gastroenterology, the highest ranking journal in the field. The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Epidemiology Research at Statens Serum Institut in Denmark.

High risk of colorectal cancer

Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease) are thought to have a high risk of colorectal cancer due to chronic intestinal inflammation. Previous studies of various quality have reported high cancer risk estimates in these patients, which in turn has led to intensive cancer surveillance in the UK and the US.

Better treatment options in inflammatory bowel disease

In recent decades the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease has changed markedly with an increasing use of thiopurines and biologics. The impact of changed treatment modalities on the risk of colorectal cancer is unknown.

A nationwide Danish study

In the new Danish study, researchers followed 47,374 patients with inflammatory bowel disease during 1979 to 2008. Using information from unique nationwide health registers, researchers identified all cases of colorectal cancer among the 47,374 patients and among >5 million Danes without inflammatory bowel disease.

Reduced risk over time

Among patients with ulcerative colitis, the risk of colorectal cancer decreased significantly over time, from being increased among patients diagnosed in the 1980s to being decreased in patients diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in the new millennium. These findings are promising for patients and may reflect a better control of intestinal inflammation with new treatment options.

Read the scientific article

Jess T, Simonsen J, Jørgensen KT, Pedersen BV, Nielsen NM, Frisch M. Decreasing risk of colorectal cancer in patients with inflammatory bowel disease over 30 years. Gastroenterology 2012 [Epub ahead of print]

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Department of Epidemiology Research
Senior Researcher Tine Jess

Tel: +45 3268 3722