Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Abstract Background Patients with ulcerative colitis are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than those without the disease. Surveillance programmes are used routinely to detect dysplasia and cancer in patients with ulcerative colitis. However, such programmes are poorly effective. This article discusses possible improvements suggested by recent research. Methods Papers relating to cancer associated with ulcerative colitis and surveillance programmes to detect such cancer were identified using Medline searches. Further papers were identified from the reference lists of identified papers. Results The probability of cancer for all patients with ulcerative colitis regardless of disease extent was 2 per cent at 10 years, 8 per cent at 20 years and 18 per cent at 30 years; the overall prevalence of colorectal cancer in any patient was 3·7 per cent. Indications for colonoscopic surveillance are extensive disease for 8–10 years, especially in those with active inflammation, a family history of colorectal cancer and primary sclerosing cholangitis. Problems affecting surveillance include the diagnosis of dysplasia, difficulty in differentiating ‘sporadic’ adenomas from a dysplasia-associated lesion or mass, and decision making based on surveillance findings. Molecular genetic and endoscopic advances to alleviate these problems are discussed. Conclusion Rates of detection of dysplasia can be improved by chromoendoscopy. Molecular genetics has the potential to identify patients most at risk of cancer and can differentiate between different types of lesion.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Surgery


Oxford University Press (OUP)

Publication Date





928 - 936