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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop inflammatory bowel disease with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing inflammatory bowel disease. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

While scientists continue to search for the cause of inflammatory bowel disease, they have determined that certain genetic and environmental factors may increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Exactly why these factors add to the risk is not known at this time.

Risk factors include the following:

Genetic Factors

Having a family member with inflammatory bowel disease increases your chances of getting the disease.

Ethnic Background

White people are more likely to develop both types of inflammatory bowel disease. People of Jewish heritage are at greater risk of Crohn’s disease.

Smoking

Smoking adds to the risk for Crohn’s disease but seems to lower the risk of ulcerative colitis. In addition, former smokers are at greater risk than nonsmokers.

Socioeconomic Factors

Inflammatory bowel disease seems to occur more often among people in higher socioeconomic classes and people with white-collar jobs.

Diet

Having a diet that is high in fat, sugar, and meat may increase your risk of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis .

References:

American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/ . Accessed March 6, 2006.

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America website. Available at: http://www.ccfa.org/ . Accessed March 6, 2006.

DynaMed Editorial Team. Crohn's disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated June 16, 2011. Accessed June 17, 2011.

Hou JK, Abraham B, El-Serag H. Dietary intake and risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease: a systematic review of the literature. Am J Gastroenterol. 2011;106(4):563-573.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ . Accessed March 6, 2006.

Rakel RE and Bope ET. Conn's Current Therapy 2001 . 53rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2001.



Last reviewed September 2013 by Daus Mahnke, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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