Colorectal cancer in patients with inflammatory bowel disease: the true impact of the risk

Dig Dis. 2015;33(1):52-7. doi: 10.1159/000368447. Epub 2014 Dec 17.


Patients with long-standing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have an increased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC). The association between IBD and CRC is well supported, but reported risk estimates vary widely. Although recent evidence from population-based studies reports a decline in risk, CRC accounts for 10-15% of all deaths in IBD. The potential causes of recent epidemiological trends and the real magnitude of risk of CRC in IBD are subjects of debate. The molecular pathway leading to CRC differs from the classic adenoma-to-CRC sequence. Chronic inflammation contributes to the development of low- and high-grade dysplasia which may further convert into CRC. Patients with a young age at onset, long-standing and extensive colitis with severe inflammatory burden, a family history of sporadic CRC, and concomitant primary sclerosing cholangitis are at greatest risk. The CRC risk in patients with colonic Crohn's disease is similar to that of ulcerative colitis. IBD-associated CRC can frequently be detected at late stages and at a younger age. The long-term prognosis of CRC may be poorer in patients with IBD than in those with sporadic CRC. Regular surveillance colonoscopies may permit earlier detection of CRC, with a corresponding improved prognosis. The interval between surveillance colonoscopies is dependent on each patient's personal risk profile.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogenesis / pathology
  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / complications*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / genetics
  • Risk Factors