Primary small-bowel malignancy in the UK and its association with coeliac disease

QJM. 2003 May;96(5):345-53. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcg058.


Background: Malignancies of the small intestine are rare, accounting for <2% of all cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. There is little information about the presentation and prognosis of these tumours, and the frequency of established risk factors.

Aim: To estimate the frequency of small-bowel malignancy in the UK, and its relationship to the presence of coeliac disease.

Design: Survey of clinicians registered with the British Society of Gastroenterology.

Methods: Data were collected monthly from June 1998 to May 2000. Clinicians (n=1327) were asked by post to report newly diagnosed cases of primary small-bowel malignancy. A form was sent to reporting clinicians, requesting an anonymous identifier, type of malignancy, and whether coeliac disease was present. A detailed questionnaire followed, requesting further clinical and pathological details.

Results: Clinico-pathological data were ascertained for 395 cases, including 175 adenocarcinomas, 107 lymphomas and 79 carcinoid tumours. In 13% of adenocarcinoma cases and in 39% of lymphomas, there was a diagnosis of coeliac disease. Survival rates at 30 months for adenocarcinomas, lymphomas and carcinoid tumours were 58%, 45% and 78%, respectively. Prognosis of all tumours was inversely related to stage at presentation, and lymphomas associated with coeliac disease were associated with a poorer prognosis.

Discussion: This study provides additional evidence that coeliac disease confers susceptibility to adenocarcinoma of the small bowel, as well as lymphoma. The long time from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis of small bowel tumours is of concern, as this delay is reflected in the high proportion that presented with metastatic disease. Although the absolute risk of malignancy is small, coeliac disease complicated by malignancy appears to be poorly controlled.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology
  • Adenocarcinoma / etiology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Celiac Disease / complications*
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Precancerous Conditions
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology