Up to 1 million Americans have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); the main
types are ulcerative
colitis and Crohn's disease. The inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract
becomes inflamed and damaged, causing abdominal
pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody), weight loss, and rectal
A few years ago, University of Utah researchers say they noticed that
pancreatic cancer seemed to be developing at higher-than-normal rates in IBD
patients and their family members.
To see if there was an association, the researchers studied 2,877 adults
treated for IBD at the University of Utah Health System from January 1996 to
December 2006. Their records were then compared with information from the Utah
Cancer Registry and the Utah Population Database.
That way, they could figure out the rate of pancreatic cancer in the general
population as well as the rate of pancreatic cancer in people with IBD and
compare the two.
"We had striking and unexpected results," says Jason Schwartz, MD, assistant
professor of surgery at the University of Utah.
"We thought there would be an association, but we were surprised at the
strength of the association," he tells WebMD.