Celiac.com 08/14/2007 - It has long been documented that there is a connection between celiac disease and neoplasm. In fact, in the 1960s, a population-based study reported a 100-fold increase in risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in patients with celiac disease.

It has also been shown that people with celiac disease are at greater risk for developing small bowel adenocarcinoma. Also, studies have shown an increased mortality rate from cancer among celiac patients, and there is mounting, but not conclusive evidence that a gluten-free diet provides a measure of protection against the development of malignancies. Strangely, several studies have documented a lower risk of breast cancer among celiac patients.

However, to date, very little is known about the associated factors, particularly with regard to the development of gastrointestinal malignancies and their corresponding risk levels. A study recently published in BMC Gastroenterology documents the efforts of a team of Italian doctors to evaluate the risks of developing various types of gastrointestinal neoplasms associated with delayed diagnosis of celiac disease and the resulting consumption of gluten over time.

The team was made up of doctors Marco Silano; Umberto Volta; Anna Maria Mecchia; Mariarita Dessì; Rita Di Benedetto; and Massimo De Vincenzi. The team studied a group of 1,968 celiac patients from 20 GE referral centers between 01 January 1982 & 31 March 2005.

Study Shows Higher Rates of Gastrointestinal Malignancy that Increase with Age in Patients with Delayed Diagnosis of Celiac Disease

According to the results of the study celiac patients have an increased risk of developing cancer which corresponds directly with the age of diagnosis of celiac disease. This increased risk applies to gastro-intestinal malignancies. An accurate screening for tumors should be performed in patients diagnosed with celiac disease in adulthood. On average, the mean age of celiac patients who developed a neoplasm, either sooner or later, was 47.6 +/- 10.2 years, compared with 28.6 =/- 18.2 years in those did not develop neoplasm.

BMC Gastroenterology 2007, 7:8 (9 March 2007)

health writer who lives in San Francisco and is a frequent author of articles for Celiac.com.

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