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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Does having Crohn's disease increase my risk for bowel cancer?

    If so, is there anything I can do to reduce the risk?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Dr Kannan Venugopal


    I am an adult gastroenterologist working in Perth, WA. I have trained in Perth and Edinburgh, UK. After completing my speciality gastroenterology training, i have … View Profile

    Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. The risk of bowel cancer is increased in a patient with crohn's disease, when its the colon that is affected predominantly by the disease. The risk factors for development of bowel cancer include, duration of the disease ( longer duration, higher risk), extent of the disease ( pan colitis has a higher risk than left sided colitis), degree of inflammation ( inflamed mucosa is at higher risk than healing/ healed mucosa), primary sclerosing cholangitis ( its presence increases the risk), smoking ( goes unsaid!) and family history of bowel cancer ( higher risk if there is a first degree relative with bowel cancer).  The other risk factors would include obesity ( less common in patients with crohn's)
    Risks can be reduced by stopping smoking and eating a healthy diet ( general advice).
    In patients with Crohn's disease, a modest but definite reduction in colon cancer risk is achieved by 5-ASA medications.
    Patients who have had colonic crohn's disease also should undergo surveillance colonoscopy commencing 8-10 yrs after the diagnosis of Crohn's disease ( and 1-2 yrly thereafter). This would enable early detection of dysplasia ( the harbinger to development of bowel cancer). Chromoendoscopic surveillance colonoscopy has now been adopted by several IBD units across Australia.

  • Bowel Cancer Australia is the leading community-funded charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and care for everyone affected by bowel cancer. We … View Profile

    Thank you for your question about Crohn's disease and bowel cancer.

    Age and health history can affect the risk of developing bowel cancer.

    The risk is greater if you -

    • are aged 50 years or over.

    • have a family history of bowel cancer.

    • have a personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium, or breast.

    • have a history of polyps in the colon.

    • have a history of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the large intestine) or Crohn's disease.

    • have certain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch Syndrome).
    As someone with Crohn's disease it would be recommended that you talk with your doctor about your bowel cancer risk and the best screening options for your individual health circumstances.

    More information on risk factors for bowel cancer is available on the Bowel Cancer Australia website at Bowel Cancer: Risk Factors -

    Kind Regards,
    The team at Bowel Cancer Australia

    Please Note: The information provided by Bowel Cancer Australia’s Nurse and Nutritionist Advisory Services is intended for Australian residents as a reference guide only.  It is not a substitute for independent professional advice and is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or disorder.
    If you believe your symptoms are consistent with those of bowel cancer or a digestive illness, please consult your doctor.
    Bowel Cancer Australia, its directors, officers or medical professionals shall not be liable to any person, company or any other body for any loss, direct or indirect or consequential on whatsoever account for any omission or negligent misstatement.

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