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Celiac disease may reduce risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer?

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By David Liu, PHD

Wednesday Sept 12, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in International Journal of Cancer suggests that having celiac disease may reduce women's risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer.

Celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue and gluten intolerance, is an immune disease in which people can’t eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley because it can damage their small intestine. Gluten may be found also in products such as vitamin and nutrient supplements, lip balms, and some medicines.

Jonas F. Ludvigsson of  Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and colleagues conducted the study and found women with celiac disease were 15 percent, 40 percent and 11 percent less likely to develop breast cancer, endometrial and ovarian cancer, respectively, compared with those who did not have the health condition.

The study was based on data from 17,852 women with celaic disease diagnosed and confimed by biopsy between 1969 and 2007 at all 28 pathology departments in Sweden and 88,400 age- and sex-matched controls who did not have the disease.

The association between celiac disease, and breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer is possible because women with celiac disease may be at decreased levels of female hormones that otherwise promote female reproductive cancers.

After exclusion of the first year of follow-up beyond celiac disease diagnosis, women with celiac disease are at 18, 42 and 28 percent reduced risk for breast cancer, endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer, respectively, compared with controls.

The researchers concluded "In conclusion, CD seems to be inversely related not only to breast cancer but also to endometrial and ovarian cancer. Potential explanations include shared risk factors and early menopause."

Breast cancer is expected in 230,000 American women in 2012 and the disease will kill about 40,000 women in the U.S. in 2012.  In the same year in the U.S., ovarian cancer is expected to be diagnosed in 22,280 and 15,500 will die from the disease and its complications and endometrial cancer will be diagnosed in 47,130 women and 8,010 will die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
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