Celiac disease, if left untreated, leads to a much higher chance of getting cancer.
The reason for greater cancer risk for those with celiac disease is not yet known, although there are some theories. The theories are not covered in this article.
Celiac disease affects many organs in the body. The biggest and scariest complication is cancer.
People with celiac disease, generally speaking, do not seem to live to as old an age as the general population. It is currently thought that the main cause of shortened lifespan is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The increased risk of developing cancer for celiacs who continue to consume gluten (e.g. wheat, barley, oats or rye; or processed foods which gluten in them) has been reported to be from 9 to 34 times the chance compared to the general population, according various studies.
The good news, for those that catch on to the underlying disease earlier in life, is that the increased risk of cancer is for those with untreated celiac disease, in other words, for those who fail to follow a gluten-free diet.
Unfortunately, there is an older generation who either never knew about celiac disease in the first place (much less that they had it), or had been told they “out-grew” the condition.
There is no outgrowing celiac disease. In some cases, it seems that children with celiac disease grow up to have less severe symptoms than adults. This is why celiac disease used to be considered a childhood disease.
It is now known to be genetically based, and triggered by the consumption of gluten.
Gluten triggers both the primary symptoms, like degraded villi and the malabsorption and other complications that come with that, and secondary symptoms, many of which are diseases in their own right, such as cancer.
If you have celiac disease, or even if you suspect it, you are strongly advised to avoid all gluten from your diet. A gluten free diet will reduce your risk of cancer.