No data on mortality in celiac disease are currently available in southern Europe. Our aim was to evaluate mortality and the cause of death in adult celiac disease in a Mediterranean area. In all, 228 adults with celiac disease were histologically diagnosed in our department from 1980 to 1997. Full information on their state of health was obtained in 216 of 228 patients. A tabulation of patient-years at risk was constructed in terms of age at diagnosis and the interval from diagnosis. Standardized mortality ratio was calculated by dividing the number of observed deaths by the number of expected deaths. Twelve deaths were observed, whereas 3.12 deaths were expected (SMR = 3.8; 95% CI 2-7). The increased mortality was mainly observed within four years from diagnosis (8 observed; 1.4 expected) (SMR = 5.8; 95% CI 2.5-11.5). Twelve tumors were observed (six lymphomas). In conclusion, mortality from adult celiac disease in our geographical area is increased compared with the general population, and this increased risk seems due to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.