Smokers and ex-smokers have a higher risk for Crohn’s disease vs those who’ve never smoked, says a study of 230,000 female nurses. Dr. Leslie Higuchi, Children's Hosp Boston, Harvard Med Schl, found that 144 of about 124,000 people who never smoked developed Crohn’s vs 117 of 51,000 ex-smokers and 75 of 53,500 smokers. The study accounted for risk factors including age, weight and hormone therapy use and found that smokers were 90% more likely to develop the autoimmune disease than those who never smoked while ex-smokers upped their risk by 35%. The more one smoked, the higher the risk. Smoking was also associated with ulcerative colitis. The risk decreased over time but even 20 years after quitting, the risk of developing Crohn’s was 1 1/2 times higher than for those who never lit up.
Hormones Hell on the Gut
Results from two studies found that younger women on the pill tripled their risk of Crohn’s disease and post-menopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy were 1.7 times more likely to develop ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease results when the lining of the small and/or large intestines becomes inflamed to the point of bleeding. Ulcerative colitis is inflammation of the colon or rectum can lead to diarrhea, abdominal cramps and bleeding of the rectum. Researchers stressed that these studies did not show a cause-and-effect relationship, but the strong association of Crohn’s and the pill do concern them, especially in young women with a family history of the disease. Previous animal studies have demonstrated that estrogen makes the colon more susceptible to inflammation.
Higher in Developed Nations
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, is on the rise worldwide, finds a study published in the journal Gastroenterology. Researchers say the highest prevalence of IBD, which affects men and women equally, was reported in Canada and Europe; Asia reported the lowest prevalence of IBD. Universally, people between the ages of 20 and 40 have the highest incidence of IBD which is also more prevalent in industrialized countries. Common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and less commonly, rectal bleeding. "Our findings will help researchers estimate the global public health burden of inflammatory bowel disease so that appropriate health-care resources are allocated ...” says lead author Gilaad G. Kaplan, MD, MPH.