Patients who have inflammatory bowel disease are likely aware that its presence gives someone a higher likelihood of developing gastrointestinal cancers (such as colon cancer), but links between IBD and other forms of cancer have not been well-researched. Recently, doctors and researchers took a look at correlations between IBD and prostate cancer, and while more research certainly needs to be conducted, the results were surprising. Read on to learn about the links between IBD and prostate cancer, and how you can take preventative steps. 

What Is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition that affects both men and women. It is the collective term for two separate diseases–ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The acronym IBD often gets confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and while the two conditions do share some common attributes, they are very different. IBS is a condition that can certainly affect a patient’s quality of life, but it is not a dangerous or life-threatening disease. In contrast, if IBD is left untreated, it can affect the gastrointestinal tract with irreversible damage and can be quite dangerous in nature. 

IBD is diagnosed as either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Both diseases involve chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s occurs in any part of the digestive tract, often targeting the small intestine, and ulcerative colitis occurs more predominantly in the large intestine. Having either of these conditions is troublesome because both can cause serious side effects. Crohn’s occurs in patchy spots next to healthy tissue, and ulcerative colitis damages regions continually. The inflammation from IBD can cause life-threatening side effects, and it is important to keep all scheduled appointments and screenings. IBD is strongly correlated with higher incidences of colon cancer.

Connections Between IBD and Prostate Cancer

In a recent study, researchers followed over 10,000 men for 18 years, with just over 1,000 of them having IBD and over 9,000 of them without IBD. Overall, at the end of the 18-year study, researchers concluded that the men who suffered from inflammatory bowel disease had a fivefold greater risk of developing prostate cancer. However, some of the research methods that they used were slightly controversial, such as using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer. Researchers also admit there may be a genetic component that some men with both IBD and prostate cancer share. Before the link between prostate cancer and IBD can be fully qualified, more research must be conducted; however, even a slight correlation should make men with an IBD diagnosis more aware of symptoms relating to prostate cancer.

Managing Your Health

Those with an IBD diagnosis (both men and women) must be more cognizant about their overall health, even when the symptoms of IBD are well-managed. Self-care is incredibly important and is quite a big piece when it comes to prevention. If you have an IBD diagnosis, there are a few simple ways to keep your health in check:

• Get plenty of nourishment. Drink plenty of fluids, as Crohn’s especially can dehydrate you. It’s also a good idea to nourish yourself with vitamins and minerals. Ask your physician which supplements may be a good fit for you - vitamin B12 and D are notable choices.

• Participate in regular exercise. If you can’t get to the gym a few times a week, keep yourself moving. Go for walks, try yoga, or go swimming.

• Find a support group. Keeping your IBD in the forefront of your mind can help you take better care of yourself. Also, you’ll find people going through similar experiences to yours. The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation has launched a Jackson area support group for those dealing with Crohn's and colitis. Meetings are on the third Tuesday of each month at 6pm in the 2nd-floor conference room of GI Associates on Lakeland Drive.

• Talk about OTC medicines. Before you take any over-the-counter medication, consult with your doctor first. Some OTC medicines are first-line for Crohn’s symptoms, while others (such as taking ibuprofen for a headache) can worsen your symptoms.

• Keep all of your appointments. Gi Associates has recently opened a new IBD clinic at the Lakeland location, to better serve our patients. You should be screened more often for conditions such as colon cancer, and your physician should also remind you of this. Keep a prescription diary if you’re on multiple medications. Never miss a doctor’s appointment. And always talk to your physician about everything, from your diet to the vitamins you take. This can help you live a much healthier life, even with IBD.

If you need more information about healthy habits with an inflammatory bowel disease diagnosis, or you are experiencing gastrointestinal distress and need to be seen, book an appointment at GI Associates today. We offer three separate locations for conveniences and pediatric services, providing the best of GI care to the entire family.

Your Health Matters

Let us partner with you in the thing that matters most - your health. Make an appointment today.