The UK and China provide unique historical perspectives on the evolution of the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease, which might provide insight into its pathogenesis. Historical records from the UK document the emergence of ulcerative colitis during the mid-1800s, which was later followed by the recognition of Crohn's disease in 1932. During the second half of the 20th century, the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease rose dramatically in high-income countries. Globalisation at the turn of the 21st century led to rapid economic development of newly industrialised countries such as China. In China, the modernisation of society was accompanied by the recognition of a sharp rise in the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease. The prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease is expected to continue to rise in high-income countries and is also likely to accelerate in the developing world. An understanding of the shared and different environmental determinants underpinning the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease in western and eastern countries is essential to implement interventions that will blunt the rising global burden of inflammatory bowel disease.
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