[Environmental risk factors in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (excluding tobacco and appendicectomy)]

Prévost Jantchou, Elisabeth Monnet, Franck Carbonnel
Gastroentérologie Clinique et Biologique 2006, 30 (6): 859-67
A rapid increase in the incidence of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis in developed countries, the occurrence of Crohn's disease in spouses, and a lack of complete concordance in monozygotic twins are strong arguments for the role of environmental factors in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Research in the field of environmental factors in IBD is based upon epidemiological (geographical and case-control), clinical and experimental studies. The role of two environmental factors has clearly been established in IBD. Smoking is a risk factor for Crohn's disease and a protective factor for ulcerative colitis; appendectomy is a protective factor for ulcerative colitis. Many other environmental factors for IBD have been investigated, including infectious agents, diet, drugs, stress and social status. They are detailed in the present review. Among them, atypical Mycobacteria, oral contraceptives and antibiotics could play a role in Crohn's disease. To date, three hypotheses associate environmental factors with the pathophysiology of IBD (loss of tolerance of intestinal immune system towards commensal bacterial flora): the hygiene, infection and cold chain hypotheses. Much work remains to be done to identify risk factors for IBD. Research identifying environmental factors that might cause a predisposition to IBD is useful. It may lead to disease prevention in subjects who are genetically predisposed and disease improvement in patients.

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