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Coeliac disease (CD) is associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), but there is little information about whether this is true for clinically silent CD.To investigate the frequency of CD in two European populations; one with NHL and another derived from the general population.A prospective, multi-centre, case–control study in 10 European countries was conducted between May 1998 and April 2001. A total of 1446 consecutive patients with newly diagnosed NHLaged over 18 years was collected. The control group consisted of a population of 9676 individuals who were screened for CD. The number of patients with a previous diagnosis of CD and those with silent CD detected by screening were determined in the two groups.The patients with CD had a significantly increased risk of developing NHL [odds ratio (OR) 2.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.4–4.9]. This risk was only present in patients with CD diagnosed clinically before the study (OR 3.3, 95% CI 1.4–7.9), but not in those with silent CD detected by screening (OR 1.3, 95% CI 0.6–2.7).Patients with CD have an increased risk of developing NHL, although this is lower than previously thought. Clinically silent CD is rare in patients with NHL.