Why Does Crohn's Disease Increase the Risk of Cancer?


Quick Answer

Crohn's disease may increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer, or CRC, because it produces chronic inflammation of the digestive and gastrointestinal, or GI, tracts, including the colon. In response to abnormally high and frequent bouts of inflammation, cells in the colon respond with protecting measures, ultimately changing the structure and of the colon and impairing its health. Risk of developing colon cancer as a side effect of Crohn's depends primarily on the length of colon subject to inflammation and other organs in the digestive system or GI tract affected by the disease, notes the Chron's and Colitis Foundation of America.

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Full Answer

Typically, patients with Crohn's disease whose inflammation remains confined to small, end portions of the colon see a lower risk of developing CRC than patients with inflammation covering long portions of the colon. According to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, having chronic inflammation in the lower intestine also slightly increases the risk of developing CRC. Regardless of where and how long inflammation occurs, experts recommend individuals with Crohn's undergo routine colonoscopies every 10 years, starting at age 50. Additionally, those with family histories of CRC and with additional complications from Crohn's, such as chronic liver disease, usually undergo colonoscopies more frequently. In addition to CRC, having Crohn's increases the risk of other complications, including fistulas, ulcers, bowel obstruction, malnutrition and osteoporosis, as noted by Mayo Clinic.

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