Childhood Abuse May Increase Ulcerative Colitis Risk

Pharmacy Times, July 2016 Digestive Health, Volume 82, Issue 7

Patients who experienced physical or sexual abuse as children may face a significantly higher risk of developing ulcerative colitis as adults.

Patients who experienced physical or sexual abuse as children may face a significantly higher risk of developing ulcerative colitis (UC) as adults, according to the results of a recent study. The study, published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, examined data on 21,852 Canadian patients 18 years and older. After thorough analysis, the research team found that nearly 25% of patients with UC reported that they had been kicked, bitten, punched, choked, burned, or physically attacked before the 16 years of age compared with 10% of patients without the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In addition, about 20% of participants with UC stated that an adult had forced them or attempted to force them into unwanted sexual activity, as children, compared with only 1 in 17 of participants without the condition.

Overall, the researchers determined that the risk of UC was more than 2 times higher for patients who had experienced childhood maltreatment than it was for those who were not abused. These associations remained, even after accounting for sociodemographic characteristics, mental health conditions, and health behaviors.

The research team found no comparable association between childhood abuse and, Crohn’s disease, another IBD. Although the researchers were unsure of the reasons for this difference, they suggested the possibility that epigenetics was a factor.

The study authors acknowledged that causality could not be established based on their findings, but emphasized the importance of better understanding the relationship between childhood abuse and UC in future research.