Background: Coeliac disease and colorectal neoplasia are both common, present most often in patients over 40 and cause similar symptoms. Greater awareness and early use of serological tests have improved the diagnosis of coeliac disease, but raise the concern that co-existing colorectal neoplasia may be missed. This study assessed the prevalence of colorectal neoplasia among patients with coeliac disease diagnosed after the age of 40 who presented with altered bowel habit or iron deficiency.
Methods: All patients meeting the above criteria underwent colonoscopy unless this or barium enema had been performed shortly before.
Results: Of 69 patients with coeliac disease undergoing colonoscopy, 7 (10%) had colon neoplasia: 5 had tubulovillous polyps, and 2 had carcinoma. The prevalence figures for coeliac patients undergoing colonoscopy with iron deficiency and altered bowel habit alone were 11% (5 of 47) and 10% (2 of 22), respectively None of a further 13 who had undergone previous colon investigation (all by barium enema) had neoplasia, although these were probably a selected population. The seven patients with colorectal neoplasia had not reported rectal bleeding. The prevalence of colorectal neoplasia was not significantly higher than in two series of non-coeliac patients undergoing colonoscopy for investigation of iron deficiency (12%) or altered bowel habit (8%).
Conclusions: There is a high prevalence of colorectal neoplasia among older patients with coeliac disease who present with iron deficiency or altered bowel habit, though this is no higher than for non-coeliac patients with these presentations. The possibility of dual pathology should be considered and excluded by colon investigation.