Inflammatory Bowel Disease More Common in the UK That Thought

By Megan Brooks

October 27, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The number of people with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in the U.K. is much higher than thought and is likely to rise over the next 10 years, according to research presented October 21 at United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Week Barcelona.

"The results of the study are alarming, particularly if we consider the fact that Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are lifelong diseases that can begin at a young age and have a huge impact on a patient’s quality of life," Salvo Leone, president of the European Federation of Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis Associations (EFCCA), said in a conference statement.

Data on the epidemiology of IBD in the U.K. are "limited and old," Dr. Dominic King of the University of Birmingham and colleagues note in their meeting abstract.

To get a more accurate and up-to-date picture of IBD prevalence in the U.K., they analyzed data over roughly the last 16 years from the Health Improvement Network (THIN), a nationally representative primary-care database.

The results suggest that IBD prevalence is three times higher than previously reported, with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease prevalence increasing by 55% and 83% respectively, between 2000 and 2017.

The study also showed that IBD prevalence is predicted to rise by nearly a quarter from 2017 to 2025.

"We suggest that prevalence is high because although incidence rates are static, life expectancy is increasing both across the country but also in those with IBD, suggesting better management and more timely intervention," Dr. King told Reuters Health by email.

He said "ever-increasing health-seeking behavior" may also be a factor.

"I would hope that patients are seeking advice when they get troublesome symptoms, something that may not have been so common in the past. The Internet may play a role here too, with better population education and access to health information," said Dr. King.

He also noted that the U.K. IBD prevalence rates are "not too dissimilar" to that reported in U.S. and Canadian studies. There has been a "dramatic increase over time in U.S., Canadian and in our U.K.-based study."

"The burden of IBD is compounded further by an association with colorectal cancer," Dr. King said in a statement.

"Our study found that patients suffering from Crohn's disease had a 23% increased risk of developing CRC compared to matched controls, whilst ulcerative colitis patients had a significantly elevated risk of 43%. The rise in prevalence of IBD could therefore potentially lead to an associated rise in CRC cases," he noted.

The study had no specific funding and the authors have indicated no relevant disclosures.


UEG Week Barcelona 2019.