New research has revealed that pediatric cases of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are rising in Canada, particularly among children under the age of 5.
“It used to be unheard of to see a child under five years old. It was very, very rare 20 years ago, but now we’re seeing it more often,” said Dr. Eric Benchimol, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
The study looked at data from five Canadian provinces — including Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec — tracking the number of children under 16 years of age who had been been diagnosed with IBD between 1999 and 2010.
Overall, the number of children under 16 living with IBD in Canada rose from 29 per 100,0000 in 1999, to 46 per 100, 000 in 2008 — an increase of almost 60 per cent.
New cases in children under the age of five increased the most, at a rate of about 7.2 per cent per year.
“We know that early life exposure to environmental risk factors – things like early antibiotics use, living in a city, potentially lack of sunlight exposure, potentially some dietary changes – seems to increase the risk of developing IBD,” said Benchimol.
According to Benchimol, though, there is some good news — kids who are diagnosed with IBD early in life tend to respond better to treatments and require surgery less often.