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Review article: malignancy in adult celiac disease

April 2009 | 3 min read


This paper provides a brief overview of the association between certain types of cancer and celiac disease. Prior studies have suggested the incidence of certain cancers, such as malignant lymphoma and small intestinal adenocarcinoma, are increased in celiac disease. Additionally, studies conducted in the United Kingdom also have suggested a link between celiac disease and esophageal cancer, but this has yet to be confirmed in North America. 

Key Points

  • Overall, the risk of other gastrointestinal cancers seems to be limited, and stomach cancer does not appear to be detected more frequently in patients with celiac disease, even though endoscopies are commonly performed.
  • Colon cancer also appears to be limited in celiac disease, even in patients first diagnosed with celiac disease late in life. As a result, some have suggested untreated celiac disease may be protective against gastrointestinal cancers. This may be because celiac disease can inhibit absorption or promote faster excretion of fat or fat‑soluble agents, as well as certain other substances (carcinogens) that have been implicated in causing colon cancer.

Key Takeaways

Additional research is needed to determine what, if any, links may exist between treated and untreated celiac disease and certain types of cancer.


Freeman HJ. Malignancy in adult celiac disease. World J Gastroenterol 2009 April 7; 15(13): 1581-1583.