Background and aim: The rapid increase in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) incidence confirms the importance of environment in its etiology. We aimed to assess the role of childhood and other environmental risk factors in IBD.
Methods: A population-based case-control study was carried out in Canterbury, New Zealand. Participants comprised 638 prevalent Crohn's disease (CD) cases, 653 prevalent ulcerative colitis (UC) cases and 600 randomly-selected sex and age matched controls. Exposure rates to environmental risk factors were compared. Unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) are presented.
Results: A family history of IBD (CD OR 3.06 [2.18-4.30], UC OR 2.52 [1.90-3.54]), cigarette smoking at diagnosis (CD OR 1.99 [1.48-2.68], UC OR 0.67 [0.48-0.94]), high social class at birth (CD and UC trend, P < 0.001) and Caucasian ethnicity (CD OR 2.04 [1.05-4.38], UC OR 1.47 [1.01-2.14]) were significantly associated with IBD. City living was associated with CD (P < 0.01). Being a migrant was associated with UC (UC OR 1.40 [1.14-2.01]). Having a childhood vegetable garden was protective against IBD (CD OR 0.52 [0.36-0.76], UC OR 0.65 [0.45-0.94]) as was having been breast-fed (CD OR 0.55 [0.41-0.74], UC OR 0.71 [0.52-0.96]) with a duration-response effect. Appendicectomy, tonsillectomy, infectious mononucleosis and asthma were more common in CD patients than controls (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: The importance of childhood factors in the development of IBD is confirmed. The duration-response protective association between breast-feeding and subsequent development of IBD requires further evaluation, as does the protective effect associated with a childhood vegetable garden.