Background: Patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) are at greater risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC) than the general population. Both duration and extent of UC are important risk factors for CRC, as is the presence of primary sclerosing cholangitis, family history of CRC, and (in some studies) early age at diagnosis of UC. Efforts to reduce this risk have focused on colonoscopic surveillance as the best alternative to the more definitive, but less appealing, approach of prophylactic colectomy. However, spurred on by findings in the sporadic CRC literature, there has been a growing interest in a possible role for chemoprevention of CRC in patients with UC.
Empirical studies: Published evidence to date indicates that 5-aminosalicylic acid agents are protective against the development of dysplasia and CRC. Oral, but not topical, steroids also appear to be chemoprotective, but their chronic use cannot be recommended for this indication. Ursodeoxycholic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of neoplasia in UC patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis. Evidence suggests, but does not prove, that folic acid is chemopreventive in patients with UC. Further studies are needed to fully define the chemoprotective role of these and other agents.