Can Weight-Loss Surgery Lower Cancer Risk for the Obese?

Weight-loss Surgery and Cancer Risk: What We Know

Weight-loss surgery may do more than lower the risk of heart problems and improve type 2 diabetes in obese patients – a new review suggests it may also lower their chances of a cancer diagnosis. According to the findings published recently in Obesity Surgery, morbidly obese people who undergo bariatric surgery have reduced their cancer risk to normal-weight people.

Though experts in the United States were cautious in affirming this association, they agreed that obesity clearly raises the risk of certain cancers. The Brazilian researchers from Hospital Sao Lucas in Porto Alegre and other institutions, pooled the results of 13 studies, including more than 54,000 people. Each study looked at cancer rates after weight-loss surgery, finding a rate of about one per 1,000 person-years after treatment – nearly that of those with normal weights.

What Could Be Behind This Link?

Multiple theories explain how obesity could lead to a higher risk of cancer. Hormones are known to play a role, as fat tissue is the largest source of estrogen in women past menopause, linked to the type of breast cancer requiring estrogen for growth. Additionally, inflammation can increase with weight gain and may contribute to tumor growth and spread.

The research team emphasizes that although their findings point to an association between weight-loss surgery and cancer risk reduction, further investigation is needed to determine a cause-and-effect relationship. Moreover, experts worldwide agree that one should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of such a procedure with his or her doctor before making any major decisions.

Source: Can Weight-Loss Surgery Lower Cancer Risk for the Obese? By Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay Reporter

Lauren Teras, Ph.D., director, hematologic cancer research, American Cancer Society; Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., Arthur and Rosalie Kaplan Professor and chair, department of medical oncology and experimental therapeutics, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, Calif.; May 12, 2014, online, Obesity Surgery

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