Chronic Constipation May Increase Risk of Colorectal Cancer

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LAS VEGAS—Patients with chronic constipation may be at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer and benign neoplasms, according to the recent American College of Gastroenterology study, “Risk of Developing Colorectal Cancer and Benign Neoplasm in Patients with Chronic Constipation."

The study investigated the prevalence and incidence of colorectal cancer and benign neoplasms in 28,854 patients with chronic constipation (CC) and 86,562 controls without CC that were identified from a large retrospective U.S. claims database (January 1999-September 2011). Patients with at least two diagnoses of constipation were required to be 18 years or older and continuously enrolled in their health plan for at least one year following the study index date, which was the patient’s first eligible diagnosis of constipation. Patients with diagnoses of irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea were excluded.

Researchers found that:

• Both colorectal cancer (CRC) and benign neoplasms are more prevalent in chronic constipation patients compared to a control population free from chronic constipation.

• Among the patients that were not previously diagnosed with CRC or benign neoplasms prior to their index date, and after controlling for potential confounding factors including age, gender, family history of malignancies, and other non-gastrointestinal comorbidities, patients with CC were more at risk to develop CRC or benign neoplasms.

• The risk of developing CRC was 1.78 times higher for chronic constipation (CC) patients and the risk of developing benign neoplasms was 2.70 times higher. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, which are potentially also associated with the CC conditions, the incremental risk of developing CRC and benign neoplasms remained “consistently high."

“This study demonstrates an association, not causation, between chronic constipation and both colorectal cancer and benign neoplasms," said co-investigator Nicholas Talley, MD, PhD, of the University of Newcastle. “The postulated causal link between constipation and increased colorectal cancer risk is that longer transit times increase the duration of contact between the colonic mucosa and concentrated carcinogens in the lumen, such as bile acids or other carcinogens."

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