The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is still not well understood. But scientists do know that some type of trigger (such as an infection or a medication) can set off ulcerative colitis in people who have an inherited risk of developing the condition.

Could you be at risk? Although anyone can develop ulcerative colitis, there are a few things that can make your risk greater than average:

  • family history: Ulcerative colitis tends to run in families. If you have a relative with ulcerative colitis, your risk is increased.
  • race: Caucasians, especially Ashkenazi Jews of European descent, are at a higher risk of ulcerative colitis.
  • location: The risk of ulcerative colitis is highest in North America and northern Europe.

Smokers are at a lower risk of ulcerative colitis. But because of the negative health effects of smoking, it's not recommended as a way to reduce your risk of ulcerative colitis.

If you're concerned about your risk of ulcerative colitis, speak with your doctor.