As of February 2015, it is not known what causes ulcerative colitis, according to Mayo Clinic. Doctors once believed that diet and stress were likely causes, but these factors only worsen the condition.
A malfunctioning of the immune system that attacks cells of the digestive track is a possible cause of ulcerative colitis, according to Mayo Clinic. A family history of the disease could also be a factor, but most of those afflicted do not have this link.
Caucasians are at the highest risk for ulcerative colitis, according to Mayo Clinic, and the condition usually strikes people who are at least 30 years old. Medications containing isotretinoin may play a role, as well, though this has not been proven. Marketed under several brand labels, these medicines are typically taken to address acne issues.
The inflammation that accompanies ulcerative colitis can severely damage the colon. If the entire organ is affected, the risk of colon cancer is 32 times higher than when only the rectum and lower colon are inflamed. Approximately 5 percent of those with ulcerative colitis also experience colon cancer. Everyday Health suggests that eating a diet high in antioxidants and participating in regular exercise helps flush waste from the body, and these preventative measures may reduce the chances of developing colon cancer.