Coeliac disease, gluten-free diet, and malignancy.
Two hundred and two patients with coeliac disease or idiopathic steatorrhoea previously reported from this unit have been reviewed after a further 10 years of follow-up. Of 20 more deaths, 10 were due to malignancy. A separate study was made of all patients with histologically confirmed coeliac disease seen to the end of 1972 and followed up to the end of 1974. Twenty-one of the 43 deaths in this series were due to malignant tumours, of which 13 were reticulum cell sarcomas. There was no evidence that patients showing sub-optimal clinical response to gluten withdrawal or persisting falt jejunal biopsies were more prone to die of cancer. A gluten-free diet did not appear to be effective in preventing malignant complications, but a longer follow-up of patients will be necessary to provide a final answer to this question.