Your Health: Ulcerative Colitis and Colorectal Cancer Risk

(C) 2011, Written by Will Blesch

The topic of chronic Ulcerative Colitis, which is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum, came up recently when a close friend of mine divulged that his health has been acutely affected by it.

Since then, my friend has been to the doctor numerous times, has had a colonoscopy, and has had a ton of discomfort from the condition’s symptoms.  So far, the cause of Ulcerative Colitis is unknown.  It is known though, that people with this condition also have problems with their immune system. Whether the immune disorder or Ulcerative Colitis occurs first is still a mystery.

The biggest health risk with Ulcerative Colitis is the fact that it increases the risk for colorectal cancer. This is because the condition causes chronic inflammation of the lining of the large intestine and rectum.

According to Current Drug Targets, “There is a strong association between chronic inflammation and cancer formation.”

Treatment involves either surgery or some type of drug therapy. The drug therapy involved utilizes anti-inflammatory drugs such as Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), Mesalamine (Asacol, Rowasa, others), balsalazide (Colazal) and olsalazine (Dipentum), and Corticosteroids.

As with many drugs developed, produced and marketed by the major pharmaceutical companies, most of the above mentioned drugs have a load of side effects.

According to Nature Reviews Rheumatology (formerly published as Nature Clinical Practice Rheumatology), “Sulfasalazine and azathioprine are among the most important causes of acute hepatotoxicity. Because such a large number of people take NSAIDs, even the rare occurrence of hepatotoxicity from these agents might contribute substantially to the total burden of drug-induced liver disease.”

Some of the minor side effects for Sulfasalazine include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn and headache.

When it comes to Mesalamine, there are not quite as many side effects as with Sulfasalazine.

However, in at least one case, there was a significant side effect which was an eosinophilic variant of Wegener’s granulomatosis.  (Wegener’s granulomatosis is a rare disorder in which blood vessels become inflamed, making it hard for blood to flow.)

As for Corticosteroids, these have numerous side effects, including weight gain, excessive facial hair, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and an increased susceptibility to infections. Thankfully these are usually prescribed for a very limited amount of time.

In vast contrast, there are alternative therapies which are much easier on the gut, and that have significant anti-inflammatory properties. Some of the natural remedies for Ulcerative Colitis include Boswellia which is an herb that comes from a tree native to India.

An article in Planta Medica says, “Oleogum resins from BOSWELLIA species are used in traditional medicine inIndiaand African countries for the treatment of a variety of diseases…clinical studies, so far with pilot character, suggest efficacy in some autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and bronchial asthma. Side effects are not severe when compared to modern drugs used for the treatment of these diseases.”

Aloe Vera oral gel has also shown some anti-inflammatory properties and has helped those with chronic Ulcerative Colitis.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis, “Oral aloe vera taken for 4 weeks produced a clinical response more often than placebo; it also reduced the histological disease activity and appeared to be safe. Further evaluation of the therapeutic potential of aloe vera gel in inflammatory bowel disease is needed.” (Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics.)

Outside of drugs or natural, herbal remedies…activities that can help lower one’s risk for colorectal cancer when one has Ulcerative Colitis, include the following:

• Eat a healthy, antioxidant-rich diet, which may help to prevent cancer.
• Exercise often, which helps to move waste out of your body and can reduce your risk for colorectal cancer.

To me, it makes sense that once acute flare ups have been stopped, one should pursue a path of anti-inflammatory maintenance through the use of natural means.

At the very least, if it were me, I would be talking to my doctor about it. If your family doctor won’t talk about it…find a doctor who will, and who will discuss if not an exclusive use of natural remedies, at least a combination of natural and conventional medicines.
Aithal GPMedscape,  “Hepatotoxicity related to antirheumatic drugs.” Nature Reviews Rheumatology25 Jan. 2011

Ammon HP, “Boswellic acids in chronic inflammatory diseases.” Planta Medica, Oct.

Langmead LFeakins RMGoldthorpe SHolt HTsironi EDe Silva AJewell DPRampton DS, “Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis.” Aliment Pharmacology & Therapeutics,1 April 2004

Fayaz MSultan ANawaz MSultan N, “Mesalazine-induced eosinophilic variant of Wegener’s granulomatosis in an ulcerative colitis patient.” Journal ofAyubMedicalCollege, Abbottabad: JAMC Oct. 2009
Affendi R, Ali R, Egan LJ. “How to Manage the Risk of Colorectal Cancer in Ulcerative Colitis.” Current Drug Targets,5 April 2011

Lee, Lexa W. “Can Ulcerative Colitis Increase Cancer Risk?” Everydayhealth.com17 March, 2009

Will Blesch is a freelance copywriter, professional blogger and media professional. If you’re looking for an experienced copywriter to take on a project, (ranging from full product launches to ghostwriting your organization’s blog) please get in touch and tell me how I can help.

will AT willblesch DOT com


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