ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System believe 1 percent of the U.S. population suffers from celiac disease, and if left untreated, the illness can lead to cancer.
Celiac disease is characterized by severe, chronic inflammation of the small intestine from exposure to a dietary protein called gluten most commonly found in grains including wheat, rye and barley.
William Chey, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Physiology Laboratory at the University of Michigan Health System, recalled one patient who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result of her undiagnosed and untreated celiac disease.
Treatment involved removing 48 inches of Dorothy Carpenter’s small intestine and a small mass, and undergoing chemotherapy. A 5-year cancer survivor, she attributes recovery to maintaining a gluten-free diet.