Skip to Content

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Cancer Risk

Topic Overview

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. Butsigmoidoscopysometimes can be used.Colonoscopyis 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

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.

References

Citations

  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.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerPeter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology

Current as ofMay 5, 2017

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Symptom Checker

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.