Reuters (reuters.com) – by Genevra Pittman
Tuesday, August 06, 2013
People with celiac disease whose intestines are slow to heal are at increased risk of cancer of the immune system, or lymphoma, according to a new study. Researchers found that people with celiac disease who had persistent damage to their intestines after being diagnosed – possibly due to lack of adherence to a gluten-free diet – had rates of lymphoma almost four times higher than the general public.
However, it’s not clear whether everyone with celiac disease should have follow-up biopsies to look for such damage, according to Dr. Daniel Leffler, from The Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “It’s still only worth doing a test for a problem if you can fix the problem when you find it,” said Leffler, who wasn’t involved in the new research. “Right now the only treatment we have (for intestinal damage) is a gluten-free diet.”
Among people with celiac disease – about one percent of Americans – the immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Eating foods with gluten damages the small intestine and keeps the immune system on overdrive, so patients are advised to adopt a permanent gluten-free diet at diagnosis.