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For reasons that are unclear, patients with dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) have a lower than expected mortality rate from ischaemic heart disease. We have compared risk factors for ischaemic heart disease (lipids, fibrinogen levels, smoking history and social class) in 29 DH patients and 57 controls matched for age and sex. Patients with DH had significantly lower cholesterol, triglycerides, apolipoprotein B and fibrinogen and higher HDL2; they also smoked less and were of higher social class. The mechanisms underlying these observations merit further investigation. Intestinal abnormalities or gluten-free diet may account for differences in lipid fractions, and the immunomodulatory properties of cigarette smoke may protect against the development of DH.