About 1 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and about half of these patients have ulcerative colitis. There are several risk factors for ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis can occur at any age, but it is most often diagnosed in people ages 15 - 35 and, less commonly, in people ages 50 - 75.
Men and women are equally at risk for developing ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis tends to run in families, with up to 20% of patients having a close relative who also has the disease.
Race and Ethnicity
Ulcerative colitis is more common among whites than non-whites. Jewish people of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) descent have a heightened risk for ulcerative colitis.
Smoking appears to decrease the risk of developing ulcerative colitis. (Because of the hazards of smoking, however, it should never be used to protect against ulcerative colitis.) Conversely, smoking appears to increases the risk of developing Crohn's disease, and can worsen the course of the disease.
Review Date: 09/28/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.