While there’s no doubt that people with UC or ulcerative colitis have an increased risk of colon cancer, this does not automatically mean that you will actually develop it. Approximately 5% of those who have severe ulcerative colitis may develop colon cancer.
In addition, you can take specific steps to lower your risk. In people with UC, their own immune system is essentially attacking their colon, resulting in inflammation. This, in turn, leads to chronic dysplasia, which involves changes in the colon lining’s cells that might develop into cancer later on.
While the numbers vary, a study published in the Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics states that those with ulcerative colitis are five times more likely to get colon cancer than individuals who don’t have ulcerative colitis.
How Ulcerative Colitis May Impact Your Risk of Colon Cancer
Warning signs of colon cancer could be more difficult to distinguish in individuals with ulcerative colitis. For instance, bloody stools, which a common cancer symptom, may likewise occur with a UC flare. However, certain factors could raise the risk of getting cancer. These include the following:
- The extent to which the colon is affected. If only two to four inches of colon nearest your rectum is impacted (also known as ulcerative proctitis) your risk the about the same of individuals who don’t have ulcerative colitis. You have a higher risk if your entire colon has been affected.
- The severity of your ulcerative colitis. The longer you don’t address inflammation, the higher your chances of developing dysplasia. Essentially, it’s not about having ulcerative colitis, but having ulcerative colitis that isn’t managed or treated properly.
Lowering Your Risk of Colon Cancer
When you have UC, you must meet with your doctor to seek ulcerative colitis treatment here in Lehi regularly to make sure that you are on top of your treatment plan and to catch potential symptoms of more severe complications. You can likewise lower your risk with the following tips:
- Eat a low-fat, healthful diet to manage inflammation from ulcerative colitis. Although there’s really no one-size-fits-all diet for lowering the risk of UC flare-ups, you should reduce your animal fat intake since studies have shown that this can cause further inflammation.
- Change your medications. There’s evidence suggesting that statin drugs used for reducing cholesterol levels could result in an immunomodulatory effect, which means that they also help lower inflammation. For example, infliximab is an anti-inflammatory drug that’s typically prescribed to control rheumatoid arthritis. It might likewise work to manage ulcerative colitis inflammation, which could also help protect against colon cancer.
- Have regular screenings for colon cancer. The recent recommendation is to have a colonoscopy once a year if you have had UC for eight years or more. Keep in mind that to obtain the most accurate colon samples, the biopsy must be taken every 4 inches or so when screening.
The key to lowering your risk of colon cancer when you suffer from ulcerative colitis is to keep the inflammation under control. Make sure that you’re managing your condition the best way possible and remember that your goal is to prevent complications from occurring.