SEP 07, 2023 3:00 AM PDT

Weight Loss Surgery Found to Reduce Risk of Obesity-Related Cancers

WRITTEN BY: Katie Kokolus

Obesity, characterized as an abnormally high, unhealthy amount of body fat, has become a common disease throughout the United States.  Individuals with obesity often develop a variety of other health conditions, known as comorbidities, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis.    

Obese individuals also remain at an elevated risk of some types of cancer.  The risk of developing specific subtypes of breast (particularly in postmenopausal women), colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, kidney, pancreatic, and gallbladder cancers increases with obesity. 

Recent medical and technological advances have led to surgical procedures that can result in significant weight loss.  Bariatric surgery promotes weight loss by surgically altering the body's digestive processes.  Various types of bariatric surgery focus on different components of the digestive system.  Some procedures surgically reduce the stomach size so the patient will feel full sooner and may eat less.  Other strategies target the small intestine, altering how the body absorbs food and nutrients. 

Evidence suggests that bariatric surgery can augment obesity-related health conditions, including diabetes and hypertension.  Can bariatric surgery reduce the risk associated with cancer?  Previous work has pointed to this likely possibility.  Further, a new report in Obesity, including a large case-control study population, demonstrates a likelihood that weight loss surgery could help combat obesity-related cancers.  The current study looks at patients who have received bariatric surgery to explore the impact of weight loss on cancer risk. 

The researchers performed a retrospective study collecting data from 1982 through 2019.  The study included 21,837 patients who received some type of bariatric surgery, including gastric bypass, gastric banding, sleeve gastrectomy, or duodenal switch.  The researchers collected demographic data, such as age, sex, and body mass index (BMI).  They used this information to identify control patients with similar characteristics who did not undergo bariatric surgery. 

The report found that bariatric surgery patients exhibited a 25% lower risk of developing cancer than control patients.  The effect appears most prominent for women.  Female bariatric surgery patients showed a 41% lower risk of obesity-related cancer than females without surgery.  The malignancies considered as obesity-related included breast, ovarian, uterine, and colon cancers.  Notably, the researchers found the cancer-related mortality rate for women receiving bariatric surgery lower than for women not undergoing surgery. 

The findings of this study provide a new view of the potential benefits of weight loss surgery.  In addition, the study's design presents an excellent opportunity to extract the benefits of weight loss in general, including that by non-surgical means.  The data suggests a significant benefit of weight loss for obese women.   Thus, the authors indicate that their findings may promote research efforts for non-invasive weight loss strategies.


Sources: JAMAObesity, Curr Dia Res, J Clin Med

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
I received a PhD in Tumor Immunology from SUNY Buffalo and BS and MS degrees from Duquesne University. I also completed a postdoc fellowship at the Penn State College of Medicine. I am interested in developing novel strategies to improve the efficacy of immunotherapies used to extend cancer survivorship.
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