We conducted a systematic review to determine changes in the worldwide incidence and prevalence of ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD) in different regions and with time. We performed a systematic literature search of MEDLINE (1950-2010; 8103 citations) and EMBASE (1980-2010; 4975 citations) to identify studies that were population based, included data that could be used to calculate incidence and prevalence, and reported separate data on UC and/or CD in full manuscripts (n = 260). We evaluated data from 167 studies from Europe (1930-2008), 52 studies from Asia and the Middle East (1950-2008), and 27 studies from North America (1920-2004). Maps were used to present worldwide differences in the incidence and prevalence of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs); time trends were determined using joinpoint regression. The highest annual incidence of UC was 24.3 per 100,000 person-years in Europe, 6.3 per 100,000 person-years in Asia and the Middle East, and 19.2 per 100,000 person-years in North America. The highest annual incidence of CD was 12.7 per 100,000 person-years in Europe, 5.0 person-years in Asia and the Middle East, and 20.2 per 100,000 person-years in North America. The highest reported prevalence values for IBD were in Europe (UC, 505 per 100,000 persons; CD, 322 per 100,000 persons) and North America (UC, 249 per 100,000 persons; CD, 319 per 100,000 persons). In time-trend analyses, 75% of CD studies and 60% of UC studies had an increasing incidence of statistical significance (P < .05). Although there are few epidemiologic data from developing countries, the incidence and prevalence of IBD are increasing with time and in different regions around the world, indicating its emergence as a global disease. Copyright © 2012 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.