Weight-loss surgery affects cancer risk, new research finds

A recent study found that the possibility of developing cancer was significantly reduced in those who had surgery to lose weight compared to those who did not.

Although this may surprise some, Steven E. Nissen, a contributor to the study, says, “I think a lot of the public doesn’t understand or realize that obesity is such a big contributor to cancer, and they do not understand that it is reversible.”

But how does obesity contribute to cancer rates and what do the results of this study mean? Here’s everything you need to know.

Why obesity increases the risk of cancer

Inflammation is one of the reasons obesity puts you at risk for cancer. Fat cells enter the bloodstream and they are made up of cytokines and inflammatory proteins. Scientists have also concluded that this could be why obese people are more at risk after being exposed to and contract COVID-19.

And weight loss can be maintained after bariatric surgery. Despite the fact that some patients regain some of the weight they lost after surgery, studies suggest that most people who undergo bariatric surgery can maintain weight loss. weight loss of more than 20% a decade later.

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To examine how the amount of weight loss would affect cancer rates, Dr. Nissen and colleagues conducted a study that included 30,000 people, including 25,265 people in the control group. Patients who underwent surgery lost an average of 61 pounds after a decade, while those in the control group lost an average of 6 pounds.

According to the results, patients must lose a significant amount of weight, at least 20% to 25% of their body weight, to show a positive impact on their cancer risk, according to Dr. Ali Aminian, lead author of the study and director of the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric and Metabolic Institute.

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Although the current study focuses on bariatric surgery, Dr. Nissen said the lesson was that patients should try to lose weight in any way possible, whether through diet and exercise or diet. medical treatments. Obesity has been recognized as a chronic disease by the American Medical Association (AMA) since 2013. She stressed that obese people should not try to deal with it on their own, but rather seek medical assistance.

When Parade consulted Aminian, we found that obesity increases the risk of developing 13 types of cancer that account for 40% of all cancers diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the CDC.

“Obesity also increases the risk of dying from cancer. Obesity can accelerate cancer development by inducing chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and increased release of hormones such as estrogen and insulin growth factor,” Aminian explained.

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For obese people, Aminian mentions that many patients are unaware of the link between obesity and increased risk of cancer. The results of this study show that losing weight through bariatric surgery could reduce the risk of developing cancer by 32% and the risk of dying from it by 48%.

“We also found that the greater the weight loss, the lower the risk of developing cancer,” adds Aminian. “Patients in the study had to lose a large amount of weight (on the order of at least 20-25% of their body weight) to significantly decrease the risk of developing cancer.”

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How safe is bariatric surgery?

The question may then arise: how safe is bariatric surgery and what are the possible complications of bariatric surgery?

According to Aminian, in current practice, bariatric surgery is extremely safe. “Only five out of 100 patients develop complications after common bariatric operations such as gastric sleeve or gastric bypass surgery; 95% of patients usually develop no complications. The most common complications after surgery are bleeding, infection and blood clot formation.”

In current practice, he adds, bariatric surgery is as safe as gallbladder surgery, appendectomy or hysterectomy. “One in 1,000 patients can die from surgical complications. However, when patients are followed long-term, those who undergo bariatric surgery have about a 40% lower risk of dying in 10 years compared to obese patients who do not undergo bariatric surgery. operation.”

Similarly, when Parade consulted Dr. Aalia Al-Barwani, MDweight loss specialist and owner and founder of Albidaya well-beingshe also appreciated this study.

“We know that with obesity comes this phenomenon called ‘sick fat disease’ or adiposopathy, which is thought to cause metabolic changes that lead to cancer. This study is impressive in its size and highlights and supports what we believe in the obesity medicine community; the consequences of obesity and the reversibility of its association with cancer. It is important that all physicians and healthcare professionals consider the results of this study and use them to have meaningful conversations with their patients about their risk and what can be done to treat,” adds Al-Barwani.

While this study looked at the effects in patients who underwent bariatric surgery, Al-Barwani now finds, thanks to the results of the latest anti-obesity drugs, significant weight loss that could possibly have benefits similar to those seen in this study. study.

While this study is powerful in many ways, she believes it also opens the door to further research in other communities. For example, 73% of the study population was white, and she would like to see future studies with more diversity and include the benefits of medication use.

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  • Ali Aminian, MD, lead study author and director of the Bariatric & Metabolic Institute at Cleveland Clinic
  • Aalia Al-Barwani, MD, weight loss specialist and owner and founder of Albidaya well-being,

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