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Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Risk Factor for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer cells.

In a recent study, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) was found to be a potential precursor to prostate cancer. A twenty-year analysis of 1,033 men with IBD and 9,306 healthy men showed that those with IBD had a higher incidence rate of developing prostate cancer than those without IBD.

IBD, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, is a common ailment in the US, afflicting approximately 1.6 million people, 1 million of them being men. The study, published in European Urology, found that men with IBD were found to have raised levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), placing them at a four to five times higher risk of developing prostate cancer than men without IBD.

"These patients may need to be screened more carefully than [men] without inflammatory bowel disease," emphasized the study's lead author, Shilajit Kundu, MD, Associate Professor of Urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. "If a man with inflammatory bowel disease has an elevated PSA, it may be an indicator of prostate cancer."

In some cases, doctors assume high PSA levels may be due to IBD and dismiss the need for further tests for prostate cancer. These cases must be looked at more closely.

In his practice, Dr. Kundu commonly sees men with elevated levels of PSA who have IBD. "Many doctors think their [patients'] PSA is elevated just because they have an inflammatory condition. There is no data to guide how we should treat these men," he commented.

Further studies need to be conducted to examine the important causal link between bowel inflammation and prostate cancer.

For More Information

Burns JA, Weiner AB, Catalona WJ, et al (2018). Inflammatory bowel disease and the risk of prostate cancer. Eur Urol. [Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1016/j.eururo.2018.11.039 

Image courtesy of Nephron 

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