Mechanisms by which inflammation may increase intestinal cancer risk in inflammatory bowel disease

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2010 Aug;16(8):1411-20. doi: 10.1002/ibd.21217.


Patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are at increased risk of developing intestinal cancers via mechanisms that remain incompletely understood. However, chronic inflammation and repeated events of inflammatory relapse in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) expose these patients to a number of signals known to have tumorigenic effects including persistent activation of the nuclear factor-kappaB and cyclooxygenase-2/prostaglandin pathways, release of proinflammatory mediators such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6, and enhanced local levels of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. These inflammatory signals can contribute to carcinogenesis via 3 major processes: 1) by increasing oxidative stress, which promotes DNA mutagenesis thus contributing to tumor initiation; 2) by activating prosurvival and antiapoptotic pathways in epithelial cells, thereby contributing to tumor promotion; and 3) by creating an environment that supports sustained growth, angiogenesis, migration, and invasion of tumor cells, thus supporting tumor progression and metastasis. The present review integrates clinical and basic research observations in an attempt to provide a comprehensive understanding of how inflammatory processes may contribute to intestinal cancer development in IBD patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / complications*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Risk


  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species