Women with Crohn’s disease had about a 53% greater risk of developing cervical cancer compared with controls, and women with inflammatory bowel disease had a significantly greater risk of having had cervical neoplasia years earlier, according to a large population-based study reported in the April issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (

“We found a two-way association between inflammatory bowel disease, notably Crohn’s disease, and neoplastic lesions of the uterine cervix. This observation is not explained by differences in screening activity,” said Dr. Christine Rungoe at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen and her associates. “Patients with IBD should be encouraged to follow the screening program for cervical neoplasia, and clinicians should be aware of the slightly increased risk of HPV-related cervical lesions in IBD patients.”

Studies of IBD and cervical neoplasia have yielded mixed results as to a possible association. Some experts have postulated that underlying immunologic changes or the use of immunosuppressive drugs in IBD could thwart patients’ ability to clear HPV infections, thereby increasing their risk of developing cervical neoplasia. To explore that possibility, Dr. Rungoe and her associates compared rates of cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer among 27,408 women newly diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease and 1,508,334 controls without IBD. They identified cases and controls from a national patient registry of about 4 million women living in Denmark during 1979-2011. They also calculated the likelihood of a cervical neoplasia diagnosis preceding IBD.

Women with Crohn’s disease had a 26% higher rate of low-grade intraepithelial lesions of the cervix, a 28% greater incidence of high-grade lesions, and a 53% greater risk of cervical cancer compared with controls, the researchers reported (incidence rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals, respectively: 1.26, 1.07-1.48; 1.28, 1.13-1.45; and 1.53, 1.04-2.27). Women with ulcerative colitis also had about a 12%-15% increase in risk of developing cervical dysplasia, compared with controls (IRR for low-grade lesions, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.00-1.32; IRR for high-grade lesions, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.01-1.25), but no significant increase in cervical cancer risk.

Notably, women newly diagnosed with IBD had a “markedly elevated” odds of having been diagnosed with cervical neoplasia up to 10 years beforehand, the investigators reported. “This is a novel finding that may suggest a yet unexplored common susceptibility to IBD and cervical neoplasia, rather than an etiologic role of IBD or its treatment in development of cervical neoplasia,” they said.

Treatment with common IBD therapies such as azathioprine, mesalamine, and corticosteroids did not affect rates of cervical neoplasia, but women with Crohn’s disease who had used tumor necrosis factor–alpha antagonists had an 85% increase in high-grade intraepithelial cervical lesions. They also had a 2% increase in risk of these lesions for each filled prescription for hormonal contraceptives.

The frequency of cervical screening was slightly higher among women with ulcerative colitis, compared with controls, but was similar between controls and women with Crohn’s disease, the investigators noted.

The study was funded in part by the Danish Council of Independent Research. The investigators reported having no relevant financial disclosures.


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