Scientists have recently reported that celiac patients likely face an increased risk of lymphoma due to intestinal damage. In those at an increased risk, damage to the intestines was persistent.
Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine lining. It’s caused from a gluten reaction and has the potential to reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, and it is thought that this disease affects every one in 133 people, many who have not been diagnosed.
It is treated by making changes to the diet, so gluten is avoided. Gluten can be found in rye, barley and wheat. Unfortunately, the only way to be officially diagnosed with Celiac disease is a biopsy, which can be invasive and uncomfortable.
In those that have been positively diagnosed with this disease, the biopsy shows the villi, or hairlike projections covering the lining of the small intestine that work to absorb nutrients is flattened. Scientists have said that follow up biopsies are usually done many months to many years after a person is initially diagnosed.
According to the director of the Celiac Disease Center with Columbia University, and the coauthor of the lymphoma study, Dr. Peter Green, after a diagnosis is made and patients begin a new, gluten-free diet, it is common to expect to see the villi recover. He reported that there had been no previous confirmation between other risks and healing. The study was published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
While it has been known for many years that those with celiac disease face an increased risk of developing lymphoma than those that do not have the disease, it was not obvious that healing of the intestines actually affects the risk.
For the study, researchers followed over 7,600 patients with celiac disease from 28 pathology departments in Sweden for about nine years. Those who had ongoing damage to the intestines experienced a higher risk of developing lymphoma. That was 102.4 cases per 100,000 as opposed to 24.2 cases per 100,000 in people without the diseases. Among those that had celiac disease, the rate was higher: 67.9 cases per 100,000 for those that had damage to the intestines as opposed to 31.5 per 100,000 with healed intestines.
According to the researchers, it is not clear why some of the patients had healed intestines, but others did not.