Does Celiac Disease increase the risk of colon cancer? Can a gluten-free diet help?

Researchers in Italy wanted to determine this, considering the damaging effect gluten can have on the intestines in people with Celiac Disease (CD).  A total of 1,757 patients diagnosed with CD were part of the study and followed over an average period of about 18 years.  Each time they checked in, demographic info was recorded along with any new intestinal tissue “growth” and their adherence to a gluten-free diet.  Within the 18 years, only 6 out of the 1,757 enrolled developed cancerous tissue in their colon.  In addition, the incidence of developing cancerous tissue dropped from a ratio of 0.29 at time of CD diagnosis, to 0.07 for those following a strict gluten-free diet.  As such, the scientists agree that there is a low risk of developing colon cancer in people with CD, especially if they are following a strict gluten-free diet.

Reference: Volta, et al. Low risk of colon cancer in patients with celiac disease. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2014; 49(5): 564-568.

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