Can weight loss surgery reduce risk of cancer?

Promising study suggests weight loss (bariatric) surgery can lower risk for some cancers

Weight loss surgery (WLS) could reduce risk for developing and/or dying from some cancers, according to a recent study. JAMA published the study that suggests people who have reduced body weight after WLS have a sharply decreased incidence of many cancers, including breast, kidney, liver and endometrial.

Cancer and weight

Although researchers don’t know exactly why, cancer risk rises in proportion with higher body weight. Being overweight or obese can lead to more inflammation and increased levels of insulin, growth factor and sex hormones.

“We don’t understand it fully, but hormones play a role in the development of various cancers,” said Jeff W. Allen, M.D., a bariatric surgeon with Norton Surgical Specialists and Norton Weight Management Services.

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Weight loss reduces cancer risks

The study published in the American Medical Association’s journal looked at more than 30,000 American adults for about 10 years. For those who had WLS, their risk of developing cancer decreased by 32%, and their chances of dying from it decreased by 48 %, compared with  those who did not have WLS. The study found that the more weight people lost, the greater reduction in cancer risk.

“This study is significant, in terms of its scope and results,” Dr. Allen said. “There is a good chance that any weight loss will result in lower cancer instances, including weight loss through medication or lifestyle modification.”

It is important to remember that being overweight does not automatically mean you will develop cancer, just that research shows a high correlation between the two. Correlation means there is a connection between two variables — such as the connection between weight and cancer.

What’s next?

“Obviously, more research will need to be conducted,” Dr. Allen said. “But this is an important step in understanding the relationship between weight and cancer.”

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