Ulcerative colitis and colon cancer: what is your risk?

ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine (also known as the colon). Symptoms of UC may include bloody stools, pain, and persistent diarrhea.

Studies have shown that people with UC suffer from colorectal Cancer (starting in the colon or rectum). The degree of risk can vary depending on how long a person has had UC, how severe the inflammation associated with the condition is, and how much the large intestine is affected by the disease.

Because of this risk, it is important that people with ulcerative colitis be screened for bowel cancer regularly. The number of UC patients diagnosed with bowel cancer has declined in recent years, and more aggressive screening is believed to have played a role in this decline.

This article will explain in detail the link between ulcerative colitis and cancer, the importance of screening, and preventive measures to reduce the risk of cancer.

Ulcerative colitis and cancer: what’s the link?

People with ulcerative colitis (UC) are 4 to 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer than the general population.

This is because UC patients have higher levels of colonic inflammation and an increased risk of developing inflammation polyp (abnormal growth) in the lining of the colon or rectum. Most polyps are benign (not cancerous), but some polyps can become cancerous over time.

The exact risk of colorectal cancer in patients with UC depends on three factors:

  • Duration of disease: It is believed that the risk of developing colorectal cancer begins to increase 8 to 10 years after the onset of UC symptoms. A meta-analysis of 116 studies (statistical analysis of primary study data) found that after 10 years of onset, the risk was 1.6%; after 20 years, it increased to 8.3%; and after 30 years, it increased to 18.4%.
  • Severity of inflammation: The more inflammation in the colon or rectum, the greater the damage to the cells lining the colon. This leads to more cell turnover, providing more opportunities for cancer-causing mutations (changes) in the DNA of these cells.
  • How much of the colon is affected: People with UC throughout their colon are at the highest risk. If UC affects only the left side of the colon, the risk of cancer is low. while those with UC only in the rectum (Proctitis) does not increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
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other risk factors

In addition to UC, there are many risk factors that may contribute to the development of colorectal cancer. Other possible risk factors are:

  • Have a family history of bowel cancer, even if family members with cancer do not have UC
  • over 50 years old
  • have primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare liver disease that occurs in approximately 1 in 25 patients with UC
  • as a male

survival rate

UC patients with colorectal cancer had a slightly worse prognosis than those without UC. But if cancer is diagnosed early, it can be treated effectively.

If the cancer is confined to the colon or rectum, the five-year survival rate is 91%. If cancer is found when it has spread to nearby structures in the body or nearby lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate is 72 percent. If the cancer has spread to distant organs such as the lungs or liver, the five-year survival rate is 14%.

The importance of colorectal cancer screening

Regular colorectal cancer screening is important for people with ulcerative colitis (UC) because it increases the likelihood of contracting the cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages.

Screening is done with colonoscopy, a procedure in which a long tube with a camera (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum and used to look inside the colon. This allows your doctor to identify and remove any polyps or other tissue that may be precancerous.

Recent technological advances have improved methods for identifying colorectal cancer or precancerous lesions during colonoscopy.For example, a chromoendoscopy Can be used to identify polyps and precancerous lesions of the large intestine. This involves using a blue contrast dye to highlight any changes in the gut lining.

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, those with UC symptoms for 8 years or more should have a colonoscopy every 1 to 2 years. Exceptions are those with both UC and liver disease PSC. In this case, surveillance by colonoscopy should begin immediately after a diagnosis of UC is made.

What to expect during a colonoscopy

About 24 hours before your colonoscopy, you will be asked to clear your bowels with laxatives, enemas, or a full liquid diet. Be sure to follow the fasting instructions given to you by your healthcare provider.

On the day of surgery, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown and be given sedatives and pain relievers, either by mouth as a pill or by IV (intravenous, intravenous). In most cases, you will be awake during the procedure (but very relaxed while taking the medicine).

After sedation, your doctor will ask you to lie on your left side, insert a colonoscope into your rectum and use the tool to take pictures. They will also remove any polyps and tissue samples.

The procedure usually takes about 30 minutes, after which you will be transferred to a recovery room to let the sedative wear off. Usually, you can go home the same day.

Strategies to Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk

Regular colonoscopy is one of the most important preventive measures a patient with ulcerative colitis (UC) can take to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

There are other steps UC patients can take to minimize their risk, including avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly.

Other strategies that have been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer include:

Keep up with regular medical checkups

It’s always wise to get a checkup every year, but it’s especially important if you have UC.

During the exam, your healthcare provider will ask if your treatment is going well and make sure to have screenings at appropriate intervals to catch any cancers at an early stage. Even if your UC symptoms are in remission (symptom remission), seeing your healthcare provider regularly can help ensure you stay healthy.

Untreated ulcerative colitis carries these risks

taking prescription drugs

Inflammation is the biggest factor associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer, so any drug used to control inflammation in UC may play an important role in reducing cancer risk.

Some limited studies suggest that patients with UC who receive certain anti-inflammatory drugs have a reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer.

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eat a healthy diet

Most experts recommend sticking to a low-fat, high-fiber diet with plenty of antioxidant fruits and vegetables to reduce your overall risk of cancer.

Research has found a compelling link between increased consumption of processed or red meat and increased rates of colorectal cancer. Reducing or limiting meat intake, including steak, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats such as ham and salami, is one way to directly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

In addition to reducing meat and increasing fiber intake, Cruciferous Vegetables (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower) and calcium-rich foods (such as milk, cheese, and leafy green vegetables) may also help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Ulcerative colitis diet


Having ulcerative colitis may increase your risk of colorectal cancer. The risk depends on how long you have had symptoms of UC, the severity of the inflammation caused by UC, and how much your colon is affected.

Colonoscopy every one to two years, starting 8 to 10 years after the initial diagnosis of UC, is critical for finding cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages. If you have UC, adopting a lifestyle that promotes a healthy lifestyle, including a low-fat diet, regular exercise, and medication adherence, can help reduce your risk.

VigorTip words

If you or a loved one is battling ulcerative colitis, it’s natural to be alarmed and frustrated by worrying about another complication of your condition. But keep in mind that while colonoscopies are never pleasant, regular screenings can put you back in control of your health and keep you healthy.

Knowing your increased risk of colorectal cancer can also allow you to consult your healthcare provider if you have any worrisome symptoms, such as blood in your stool or abdominal cramps, or if you have any other concerns about your condition.

Most people with UC will never develop cancer. Taking steps to manage your UC symptoms and reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, such as eating healthy, exercising, reducing your intake of red and processed meat, and quitting smoking, are all important steps to foster inner peace and progress. Healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a colonoscopy and how does it work?

    A colonoscopy is a medical procedure used to look for changes or problems in the large intestine. During surgery, the surgeon inserts a long, thin tube with a camera and light (colonoscope) into the colon to view the large intestine. Surgeons may also remove polyps and tissue samples for testing during surgery.

  • How often should you have a colonoscopy?

    Recommendations for how often you should have a colonoscopy vary, depending on your risk factors. In general, patients with UC should undergo colonoscopy every 1 to 2 years, starting 8 to 10 years after the initial onset of UC symptoms.