Intended for healthcare professionals


Increased risk of cancer in children with inflammatory bowel disease

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 20 September 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j4285
  1. Susan Hutfless, assistant professor and director
  1. Gastrointestinal Epidemiology Research Center, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Johns Hopkins University, 600 N Wolfe St, Blalock 449, Baltimore, MD 21287, US
  1. Correspondence to: shutfle1{at}

The increase persists well into adulthood

People with inflammatory bowel disease worry about developing cancer.1 These concerns stem in part from drug labels warning of the rare but real increased risk, as well as from websites and peer reviewed papers that make their way into the headlines. Families of children with inflammatory bowel disease are particularly fearful after discovering that biological agents and immunomodulators are associated with hepatosplenic T cell lymphoma, particularly among children and young adults.2 Previous studies have identified higher rates of cancer among patients with inflammatory bowel disease than in the general population, but these studies have lacked the population size or follow-up to assess trends in lifetime risks.

The linked research paper (doi:10.1136/bmj.j3951), a Swedish nationwide cohort study of children diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease between 1964 and 2014, reports that children with inflammatory bowel disease have an increased risk of cancer in both childhood and adulthood.3 Through adulthood (median age at end of follow-up was 27 years), 497 people with childhood onset inflammatory …

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