Anal and rectal cancer in Crohn's disease

Colorectal Dis. 2003 Sep;5(5):490-5. doi: 10.1046/j.1463-1318.2003.00510.x.


Several epidemiological studies have been published regarding the risk of Crohn's disease- associated colorectal cancer. The findings are, however, contradictory and it has been particularly difficult to obtain indisputable information on the incidence of cancer limited to the rectum and the anus. During 1987-2000 rectal or anal cancer was diagnosed in 335 patients in Sweden (153 males, 182 females). In other words, approximately 3 Crohn patients per million inhabitants were diagnosed with rectal or anal cancer every year during that time period which is 1% of the total number of cases. At diagnosis of cancer 36% were aged below 50 years and 58% below 60 years. Corresponding figures for all cases of anal and rectal cancer were 5% and 18%, respectively. Present knowledge from the literature implies that there is an increased risk of rectal and anal cancer only in Crohn's disease patients with severe proctitis or severe chronic perianal disease. However, the rectal remnant must also be considered a risk factor. Multimodal treatment is similar to that in sporadic cancer but proctectomy and total or partial colectomy is added depending on the extent of the Crohn's disease. The outcome is the same as in sporadic cancer at a corresponding stage but the prognosis is often poor due to the advanced stage of cancer at diagnosis. We suggest that six high-risk groups should be recommended annual surveillance after a duration of Crohn's disease of 15 years including extensive colitis, chronic severe anorectal disease, rectal remnant, strictures, bypassed segments and sclerosing cholangitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology
  • Adenocarcinoma / etiology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma / therapy
  • Anus Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Anus Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Anus Neoplasms / pathology
  • Anus Neoplasms / therapy
  • Crohn Disease / complications*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Rectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Rectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Rectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Risk Factors