Getting bariatric surgery may help someone lose weight and reduce their risk for obesity-related cancers by more than half.
New research to be presented at a conference of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) found that patients who had sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass or gastric band procedures developed less obesity-related cancer over a 10-year follow-up period.
About 4% developed these cancers compared to 8.9% who didn’t have the surgeries, the study found. The findings will be presented at an AGA meeting in Chicago and online May 6-9.
“The primary benefit people consider when they think about bariatric surgery is weight loss and the accompanying physical and psychological benefits, such as improved blood pressure and diabetes,” said lead author Dr. Vibhu Chittajallu, a gastroenterology fellow at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals in Cleveland.
“This study adds to the building evidence that the significant weight loss associated with bariatric surgery may have a protective effect against cancer formation as well,” he said in a meeting news release.
For their study, researchers compared more than 55,700 patients with obesity who had these surgeries with the same number of similar patients who did not have surgery. They adjusted for risk factors that play a role in cancer formation, including smoking history, alcohol use, heart disease, hormone therapies and other health issues.
In all, more than 2,200 of the patients who had surgery developed cancer during the 10-year follow-up, compared to nearly 5,000 who didn’t have surgery.
They found that those who had surgery had consistently lower numbers for new cases of virtually all types of obesity-related cancer.
That included breast cancer with 501 surgery patients compared to 751 without surgery; colon cancer, 201 versus 360; and liver cancer with 969 cases in surgery patients compared to 2,198 in patients without surgery. Surgery patients also had less pancreatic cancer with 54 cases versus 86; ovarian cancer at 130 versus 214; and thyroid cancer at 154 versus 175.
“We need more research to understand how bariatric surgery affects cancer risk, but the significant findings from this study suggest it’s an exciting avenue for further study,” Chittajallu said.
Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on obesity and cancer.
SOURCE: American Gastroenterological Association, news release, April 28, 2023
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