No Increased Melanoma Risk with Celiac Diagnosis, Study Finds

Contrary to some previous findings, a new study of more than 173,000 people in Sweden has found that people diagnosed with celiac disease are not at increased risk of developing melanoma.

The research found the same melanoma risk in diagnosed celiac patients and control subjects, with about 3 out of every 1000 developing melanoma over the course of a decade.

The study—conducted by Benjamin Lebwohl, MD, Herbert Irving Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia, and researchers headed by Jonas Ludvigsson at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden—was recently published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Patients with celiac disease do have an increased risk of developing certain cancers, including lymphoma and intestinal cancer. But previous studies of melanoma have yielded conflicting results; two found no relationship and one showed a significant association.

The current study collected data from close to 29,000 subjects diagnosed with celiac disease who had been diagnosed at one of the 28 pathology departments in Sweden. Each patient was matched with up to five control subjects based on age, gender, education, and region within Sweden. No differences in melanoma risk were found between patients with celiac disease and their matched controls.

“Both celiac disease and melanoma have increased in incidence in recent years, and our patients at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University have brought up this concern about a possible link," Dr. Lebwohl says. “We were reassured to find that individuals with celiac disease are at no increased risk of melanoma compared with the general population."

The increased risk of melanoma found in prior research, Dr. Lebwohl added, was likely due to the method of identifying and following celiac patients for the study. “Much of the literature on outcomes in celiac disease derives from referral centers, and risks can variously be underestimated because of incomplete follow-up, or overestimated because of referral bias. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to perform population-based research with our Swedish colleagues to address these questions."


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