A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop inflammatory bowel disease with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing inflammatory bowel disease. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
While scientists continue to search for the cause of inflammatory bowel disease, they have determined that certain genetic and environmental factors may increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Exactly why these factors add to the risk is not known at this time.
Risk factors include the following:
Having a family member with inflammatory bowel disease increases your chances of getting the disease.
Smoking adds to the risk for Crohn disease, but seems to lower the risk of ulcerative colitis. In addition, former smokers are at greater risk than nonsmokers.
Inflammatory bowel disease seems to occur more often among people in higher socioeconomic classes and people with white-collar jobs.
Having a diet that is high in fat, sugar, and meat may increase your risk of Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis.
Crohn disease in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/crohn-disease-in-adults. Updated May 16, 2018. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Hou JK, Abraham B, et al. Dietary intake and risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease: a systematic review of the literature. Am J Gastroenterol. 2011;106(4):563-573.
Ulcerative colitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ulcerative-colitis-in-adults. Updated October 26, 2018. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review BoardDaus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 11/24/2020