Celiac.com 01/14/2009 - For decades now, doctors have known that people with celiac disease face a significantly greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), though that risk has steadily declined over the last 40 years.
Recently though, a team of doctors at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., led by Ying Gao, M.D., has discovered that siblings of celiac patients also face an increased risk of developing NHL. Results of the study appeared in the January issue of Gastroenterology.
The research team conducted a study using 37,869 patients with NHL, 8,323 with Hodgkin's lymphoma, and 13,842 with chronic lymphocytic leukemia who were diagnosed between 1965 and 2004. The study included 236,408 matched controls and 613,961 first-degree relatives.
The results indicated that people with celiac disease developed NHL at rates that were 5.35 times higher than non-celiacs, but that they faced no increased risk for developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
In some good news, the doctors found that the NHL risk level for people whose celiac disease was diagnosed between 1995 and 2004 dropped to just 3.86 times greater than for non-celiacs. This is a significant improvement over the 13.2 times greater risk of NHL faced by people diagnosed with celiac disease between 1975 and 1984.
However, the study also showed that siblings of celiac disease patients developed NHL at rates that were more than double those of the general population (2.03).
Clearly, as diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease has improved, the risk levels for NHL have decreased. The study underscores the need for greater vigilance on the part of both doctors and patients regarding NHL, and for greater understanding of the mechanisms that influence the development of NHL in both celiacs and non-celiacs.
As diagnosis and treatment and monitoring of celiac disease improves, and as understanding of NHL increases, it is likely that NHL risk levels for celiac patients will drop even further. Until then, celiac patients are encouraged to stay informed, stay vigilant, and to consult with a physician to keep on top of any developments that may influence risk levels for NHL.
Journal of Gastroenterology, January 2009; pp 91-98.