Weight Surgery May Cut Cancer Risk

Obese patients who have weight loss procedure may have added benefit of cancer protection

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For the obese, weight loss surgery—which reduces the stomach to a small pouch—has been shown to improve patient health in many ways. The procedure may even help prevent cancer.

When diet, exercise and medication fail to reduce obesity, bariatric (weight) surgery is often an effective option. The procedure can help combat a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, sleep apnea, high cholesterol and heart disease.

A new study found that it may also lower the likelihood of getting cancer.

"Consider weight loss surgery if other treatments fail."

Daniela Casagrande, PhD, with the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, and her colleagues reviewed 13 studies that provided information on cancer incidence in patients following obesity surgery. Results were based on data from more than 54,000 participants.

In their report, scientists pointed out that cancer rates for obese people were generally higher compared to those who were not obese.

They observed that the cancer rate among those who had bariatric surgery was low. Up to 23 years after surgery, cancer occurred in 1.06 cases per 1,000 person-years. Obese people had a cancer rate that could go as high as 2.12 cases per person-years.

There are different types of bariatric surgery. A gastric bypass restricts the amount of food a person can eat by creating a small stomach pouch that is attached directly to the small intestine.

With gastric banding, a surgeon creates a small stomach pouch by inserting a band around the upper part of the stomach.

With a sleeve gastrectomy, the patient has about 85 percent of their stomach surgically removed.

The authors concluded that their investigation provided “preliminary validation to a positive association between bariatric surgery and reduced cancer rates.”

Dr. Casagrande and her team could not determine from these results if lower cancer rates after weight loss surgery were due to the metabolic changes linked to weight loss, or if obese surgery patients may have had an earlier cancer diagnosis followed by improved treatment that reduced their cancer rate. The authors wrote that a lower body mass index (BMI) may allow for better assessment and treatment.

Dr. Casagrande believes that patients who undergo bariatric surgery may have increased awareness and possible earlier discovery of disease.

More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the medical costs for people who are obese were estimated to be $1,429 higher annually than those of normal weight.

Research published last year in the American Journal of Public Health found that nearly one in five American deaths are due to obesity. 

The study was published in June in the journal Obesity Surgery. The authors reported no potential conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 6, 2014
Last Updated:
June 9, 2014