The crude five year survival of patients with colorectal cancer complicating ulcerative colitis in a large series of patients under long term review has, for the first time, been compared with the survival of patients with colorectal cancer in the general population (West Midlands region) from which the colitic patients were drawn. Thirty five cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in 676 patients with ulcerative colitis between 1944 and 1976. An actuarial five year survival curve was computed for the colitic and non-colitic patients with colorectal cancer. In ulcerative colitis patients with cancer the five year survival was 33.5% (range 16.9-50.1%) compared with 32.6% (28.2-37.0%) in the non-colitic cancer patients drawn from the relevant general population. Overall the prognosis is much better than earlier reports suggest. It is perhaps disappointing that in a closely monitored group the outcome is only as good as that in the general population. Surveillance programmes should improve the outcome in those patients with ulcerative colitis who accept the need for regular review.
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