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The cause of UC is unknown, though studies show that it involves a combination of factors including genetics, immune system malfunction and environmental factors that either cause the inflammation or trigger the body to create inflammation that becomes chronic. The immune system in people with UC mistakes food, bacteria and other contents in the intestine as foreign invaders, and attacks the lining of the intestines, leading to inflammation and ulcerations.
While UC tends to run in families, studies have not shown a clear pattern of inherited disease. As many as 20 percent of people with UC have a close relative with the disease; however, most people with UC don’t have a family history. UC is more common among white people of European and Jewish descent.