Melanosis Coli (Pseudomelanosis Coli)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

woman with abdominal pain

Quick GuideDigestive Disorders: Constipation Myths and Facts

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How is melanosis coli diagnosed?

Melanosis coli can be observed during endoscopic procedures that examine the large intestine, such as colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy . Sometimes the diagnosis is made upon microscopic examination of biopsies taken during endoscopic procedures.

What is the prognosis (outcome) of melanosis coli?

If a person stops using anthranoid laxatives, the changes associated with melanosis coli lessen over time and may disappear.

Early studies suggested that anthranoid laxatives might have carcinogenic or tumor-promoting activities in humans and that the presence of melanosis coli might signal an increased risk for the development of colorectal cancer. However, more recent follow-up studies have failed to show an association between colon cancer and anthranoid laxative use or between colon cancer and the finding of melanosis coli.

Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine

REFERENCE: Shazia Ahmed, M.D., and Naresh T. Gunaratnam, M.D. Melanosis Coli. N Engl J Med 2003; 349:1349October 2, 2003

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2016

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  • Melanosis Coli - Symptoms and Diagnosis

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