Some People with Celiac Disease at an Increased Risk of Lymphoma

Patients with celiac disease whose intestines are slow to heal appear to be at an increased risk of lymphoma.

According to Dr. Peter Green and colleagues from the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York, people with celiac disease who had persistent damage to their intestines following diagnosis have four times higher risk of developing lymphoma than the general public.

Celiac disease and intestine damage

The study involved more than 7,600 people in Sweden diagnosed with celiac disease and who also had their intestines biopsied a year or so after diagnosis. Researchers found that 43 percent still had damage to their intestines on follow-up.

Those whose intestines had healed following their diagnosis did not appear to be at any higher risk than the general public for lymphoma.

The Swedish patients were followed for an average of nine years after their follow-up biopsy. A total of 53 patients were diagnosed with lymphoma.

The cause?

Speculation is that there might be a lack of adherence to a gluten-free diet, although this is impossible to know for sure.

Approximately 1 percent of Americans suffer from celiac disease, in which the immune system reacts to gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Patients are counseled to maintain a gluten-free diet because gluten damages the small intestine, thereby keeping the immune system on overdrive.

The investigators' findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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