The Journal of Gastroenterology just published a study looking at the role non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) plays in patients with celiac disease and their siblings. The study acknowledges people with celiac disease haves an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma but there’s little detailed data available on the subject. Plus, siblings of people with celiac disease also appear to be higher risk for NHL but doctors are not sure why. The research suggests more investigation is needed.

The research studied celiac and NHL cases for the past 40 years. An interesting note in the research was a significant drop in NHL cases in recent history. According to HealthDay, which issued an online article on the subject this week, the increased risk of NHL in celiac patients is down by approximately 75% in 20 years.

Overall, the researchers found that celiac disease patients had a significantly increased risk of NHL (5.35-fold) but not a significantly increased risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia. But they found that the risk of NHL significantly decreased in patients diagnosed with celiac disease in 1995-2004 (3.84-fold increased risk) compared with those diagnosed in 1975-1984 (13.2-fold increased risk). — HealthDay

That’s good news, but the article and the abstract of the study don’t explain why. I have a theory on this. I would say the reason for this is greater awareness of celiac disease and more availability of good gluten-free foods. As a result people with celiac maintain the diet, lowering their risk for celiac-related complications like NHL. I am not a doctor, so I am only theorizing here, but that’s my take on the incredible decrease in cases.

According to the HealthDay article, researchers “…also found that siblings of celiac disease patients had a 2.03-fold increased risk of developing NHL.I have no theory here…nor do researchers. “The observed excess NHL risk among individuals with a sibling affected with CD suggests shared susceptibility,” reports the Journal of Gastroenterology’s abstract on the subject. As a result, they recommend additional research on this specific subject. This study implies that because my brother has celiac, I have an increased chance as well, but what is it in our genetics that makes us share this increased risk if I don’t have celiac disease?

Looks like a good investigation that’s worth spending time on.

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