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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 21, Issue 7, Pages 443-446
Original Article

Increased Risk of Colorectal Cancer in Ulcerative Colitis Patients Diagnosed after 40 Years of Age

Constantine J Karvellas, Richard N Fedorak, John Hanson, and Clarence KW Wong

Division of Gastroenterology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Received 11 December 2005; Revised 7 November 2006

Copyright © 2007 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: The association between ulcerative colitis (UC) and colorectal cancer (CRC) is well established. Retrospective data show a 5.4% CRC incidence rate among patients with pancolitis and suggest that cancer surveillance should be provided to patients following eight to 10 years of extensive UC.

AIM: To identify premalignant risk factors for UC patients and to determine whether current recommendations for cancer surveillance need reviewing.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A retrospective audit was conducted of adult patients with UC who were diagnosed with CRC between 1991 and 2002 in five hospitals in Edmonton, Alberta.

RESULTS: Thirty-one cases of CRC (68% male) were identified. In this group, the mean ages at diagnosis were 44.4 years for UC patients and 60.1 years for CRC patients. For patients in whom the initial data of diagnosis of UC could be determined (n=29), the median duration of UC at the time of CRC diagnosis was 16 years. Patients diagnosed with UC after 40 years of age (n=15, mean age 64 years) progressed more rapidly to CRC than patients diagnosed before 40 years of age (n=14, mean age 23 years). The median durations of UC before development of CRC were 22 years and 10 years, respectively, for patients with a diagnosis of UC before and after 40 years of age (OR 11.5, 95% CI 2.41 to 20.16; P=0.00029). Only four patients (13%) were enrolled in an appropriate cancer-screening program. Nine of these UC patients (29%) who were older than 40 years of age developed CRC before the 10-year point.

CONCLUSIONS: In the present study, patients diagnosed with UC after 40 years of age developed CRC more rapidly than those diagnosed before 40 years of age. This finding suggests that patients who are diagnosed with UC after 40 years of age should undergo CRC surveillance earlier than current recommendations.