OBJECTIVE: The possible aetiological link between appendicitis and UC remains unclear. In order to investigate the hereditary component of the association, we studied the risk of UC in family members of individuals with appendicitis.
DESIGN: A cohort of 7.1 million individuals was established by linkage of national registers in Denmark with data on kinship and diagnoses of appendicitis and UC. Poisson regression models were used to calculate first hospital contact rate ratios (RR) for UC with 95% CIs between individuals with or without relatives with a history of appendicitis.
RESULTS: During 174 million person-years of follow-up between 1977 and 2011, a total of 190 004 cohort members developed appendicitis and 45 202 developed UC. Individuals having a first-degree relative with appendicitis before age 20 years had significantly reduced risk of UC (RR 0.90; 95% CI 0.86 to 0.95); this association was stronger in individuals with a family predisposition to UC (RR 0.66; 95% CI 0.51 to 0.83).
CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with a first-degree relative diagnosed with appendicitis before age 20 years are at reduced risk of UC, particularly when there is a family predisposition to UC. Our findings question a previously hypothesised direct protective influence of appendicitis on inflammation of the large bowel. Rather, genetic or environmental factors linked to an increased risk of appendicitis while being protective against UC may explain the repeatedly reported reduced relative risk of UC in individuals with a history of appendicitis.