While all of the reasons are not yet known, researchers have recently found a link between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colorectal cancer. This can mean several things for patients. Those with IBD should be screened and checked more regularly than their non-IBD counterparts, and those at risk for IBD or those with other GI-related conditions should be on the alert. Read on to learn more about the links between IBD and colorectal cancer, and why prevention is so important.

Colorectal Cancer Facts

A fact sheet on colorectal cancer would undoubtedly list near the top the morbidity associated with the disease. In 2018, colon cancer is expected to cause over 50,000 deaths in the United States, and it is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country. Part of what makes colorectal cancer so deadly is the fact that it is often “caught” after it has already spread. Screening for colorectal cancer and detecting it early gives patients a much better chance for survival, and good quality of life post-remission. 

Very often, this cancer is not found until the later stages, and the chances of recovery are slim. This is in part because colon cancer is often not symptomatic until a much later stage in the disease. Because of the spotlight on colon cancer and its related morbidity, more and more men and women are screening earlier and getting treatment as soon as possible. In fact, as of 2018, the American Cancer Society now suggests that adults should first be screened for colon cancer at age 45 (previously, it was age 50).

IBD and CRC Links

Researchers have noted that 15 percent of all deaths that occur as a result of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is directly attributed to colorectal cancer. The correlation is strong, and those diagnosed with IBD should talk about colorectal screening procedures and what may be the best course of treatment for them. If patients suffer from any of the following symptoms, they should contact their doctor immediately.

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool
  • Noted changes in bowel habits

Symptoms of IBD

Patients already diagnosed with IBD know all too well what the symptoms are. Problems such as diarrhea, fatigue, reduced appetite, cramping, blood in the stool, and fever may be all too familiar. However, if you do not carry an IBD diagnosis but feel as if you are experiencing these issues, it’s best to consult your physician for a checkup.

There are several risk factors for IBD, some of which are behavioral or situational and can be changed. These include smoking, overconsumption of nonsteroidal inflammatory medications (NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen), poor diet, heavy drinking, and living location. Risk factors that patients cannot change include race, age, and family history. In fact, family history may have a lot to do with both IBD and CRC, and if you have a family history of any of these issues, let your doctor know immediately. You may qualify for an earlier colorectal cancer screening.


The best thing to do with all of this information, particularly if you already suffer from IBD, is to be proactive. Studies show that patients can decrease their risk of contracting colorectal cancer by exercising, eating a healthy diet, avoiding red and processed meats, and scheduling regular checkups with a physician. When it comes to colorectal cancer, prevention is truly worth an ounce of cure. For more information on colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, book an appointment with GI Associates today. With three separate locations and pediatric services, we offer care for the entire family.

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