Introduction: To explore whether the excess mortality in celiac disease is related directly to the disease and duration of gluten exposure before diagnosis we have examined the long-term mortality experience of people with celiac disease diagnosed as children and as adults.
Methods: Two hundred eighty-five children and 340 adults diagnosed with celiac disease were followed until death, loss to follow-up, or December 31, 2004. We calculated standardized mortality ratios (SMRs).
Results: All-cause mortality more than 5 yr after diagnosis was increased threefold in children (SMR 3.32, 95% CI 2.05-5.07) compared with only a 38% increase in adults (SMR 1.38, 95% CI 1.16-1.63). This excess mortality in children was primarily because of an increased risk of death from accidents, suicide, and violence (seven deaths, SMR 3.22, 95% CI 1.29-6.63), cancer (five deaths, SMR 3.72, 95% CI 1.21-8.67), and cerebrovascular disease (two deaths, SMR 10.03, 95% CI 1.21-36.00).
Conclusions: Children diagnosed with celiac disease had a threefold increased risk of long-term mortality. This is in marked contrast to the experience of adult celiac disease where the long-term increase of mortality was modest. The increased mortality in children from external causes may reflect behavioral change associated with coping with a chronic disease and its treatment.