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Can Genetics be a Factor in Crohn's Disease?

By Gary H. Hoffman M.D. ; Updated June 13, 2017

Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, occurs as part of a complex interaction between the environment and the immune system. Heredity and genetics often play a part in whether or not you are susceptible to developing the disease. A look at your family tree might show a history of Crohn's. Research to determine which genes cause Crohn's indicates that more than one gene is likely involved. A more complex relationship exists between the environment and genetics than previously thought.

Genetics and Crohn's Disease

If you have a close relative with Crohn's disease, your chance of developing the disease increases. Between 20 to 25 percent of people with Crohn's disease have a family member with the disease. If you have a sibling with Crohn's, your risk of developing the disease increases thirty-fold. Differences between ethnic groups also suggest a genetic correlation. Ashkenazi Jews, for example, have a risk of Crohn's two to eight times higher than the general population. Caucasians have rates of inflammatory bowel disease of 149 per 100,000, versus African Americans with rates of 41 per 100,000.


Current Crohn's research is concentrated on locating specific genes that have direct correlations with Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. For example, the gene known as NOD2/CARD 15 recognizes bacteria as harmful. Individuals with Crohn's often carry mutations of this gene, which they can pass on to future generations. Researchers have also found entire groups of genes that correlate with other presentations of Crohn's, such as different sites of inflammation. A colorectal surgeon or gastroenterologist will help you to understand and treat Crohn’s disease.


Dr. Hoffman does not endorse any products seen on this website.

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