Researchers Find Weight-Loss Surgery Can Reduce Cancer Risk by Almost a Third

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The decision to undergo bariatric surgery is a big one. It’s a long-term commitment that not only helps to reduce excess weight, but also can help patients with other life-threatening health issues, like diabetes and heart disease, by preventing them from occurring. Now, a new study says that female patients who undergo bariatric surgery are also about a third less likely to develop cancer.

The study was conducted by the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the findings were published in the Annals of Surgery. Researchers analyzed data from more than 22,000 people who had undergone bariatric surgery from 2005 to 2012 and compared it to data from more than 66,000 people who had not had the surgery. More than 80 percent of the total number of patients studied were women. What they found was that those who had undergone the surgery had a 33 percent lower risk for any type of cancer, and more so obesity-related cancer.

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Lead researcher Dr. Daniel Schauer said, "We found [that] having bariatric surgery is associated with a reduced risk of cancer, especially obesity-associated cancers including postmenopausal breast cancer, endometrial cancer, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer. What's surprising is how great the risk of cancer was reduced."

Scientists believe the reduction in risk can be linked to changes in estrogen levels, which is linked to specific types of cancer in women. "Cancer risks for postmenopausal breast cancer and endometrial cancer are closely related to estrogen levels," added Dr. Schauer. "Having weight-loss surgery reduces estrogen levels."

Those who had undergone the surgery were also found to have a reduction in insulin resistance, which lowers the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is considered a risk factor for pancreatic cancer, as this type of cancer is more common in people with the disease.

Although the study did not find a definite explanation for the results, the findings are promising for those suffering from obesity who are considering weight-loss surgery to improve their health and quite possibly to save their lives.