The Risk Of Cancer

Coeliac Disease and Risk of Lymphoma

Coeliac disease has been associated with an increased risk of developing lymphoma.  It was first noted in the 1930s, and was originally associated with a rare type of lymphoma of the small intestine called enteropathy-type T cell lymphoma (ETTL).  More recently, researchers have found that while ETTL is the most common type of lymphoma associated with coeliac disease, there is an increased risk of other types of non Hodgkin’s lymphomas.  We don’t know exactly what the increased risk of lymphoma is.  But one recent study found that with coeliac disease, the risk of diffuse large B-cell lymphomas is approximately 3 times the risk of the average person.

Compared with the general population, people with coeliac disease also have an increased risk of developing some other cancers, including oesophageal cancer and adenocarcinomas of the small bowel. However, researchers have yet to agree on the exact risk, and opinions vary.  One study reported that people with coeliac disease have a lower risk of breast cancer.

This can be a great deal to take in, especially while adjusting to the diagnosis of coeliac disease, and changes to your diet.  But it is important to remember that doctors now believe that following a gluten free diet can reduce your risk of developing cancer so it becomes the same as that of the general population.  In 1989 a medical study in Birmingham concluded that people with coeliac disease, who had followed a gluten free diet for 5 years or more, had the same risk of cancer as the general population. Read the results of this study here.

A Swedish study showed that the increased risk of non Hodgkin’s lymphoma in people with coeliac disease was significantly higher than the general population, but the risk fell from the 1970s to the 1990s.  This may be because coeliac disease is better managed nowadays and also because milder forms of the disease are picked up through screening.  

We need more research to understand more about the cancer risks associated with coeliac disease, and to find out whether people with this condition should have cancer screening.  If you have coeliac disease, it is important to stick to a strict gluten free diet. This will help reduce symptoms of other conditions associated with coeliac disease such as osteoporosis and autoimmune disorders, as well as cancer risk.  If you are worried that you might have coeliac disease, then talk to your GP.

Visit this page for other illnesses Probably Associated with Coeliac Disease

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