Weight loss surgery helps reduce many health risks, including heart ailments and diabetes. It may also reduce the risk for certain cancers, according to findings from Brazilian researchers.
The team of Brazilian researchers grouped the results of 13 studies of more than 54,000 people, looking at cancer rates after weight loss surgery. What they found was that bariatric surgery reduced their risk of cancer by 40 percent compared to obese people who did not have surgery.
While the researchers are unclear as to why the reduced risk occurs, study author Daniela Casagrande, Ph.D. of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, the answer is probably related to the reduced stress our bodies undergo with excess weight.
“We know that bariatric surgery decreases oxidative stress, inflammatory markers, and hormonal disturbances that may explain the cancer risk reduction,” says Casagrande.
A study from earlier this year revealed that bariatric surgery patients had a reduced risk for uterine cancer of up to 81 percent.
Cancer’s Link to Obesity
The link between cancer risk and obesity has already been well established. According to the National Cancer Institute, it has been linked to the following cancers, and possibly others: esophagus, pancreas, colon, rectum, breast (after menopause), endometrium (lining of the uterus), kidney, thyroid, and gallbladder.
There are a number of suggested reasons for possible heightened cancer risks with obesity. For instance, higher levels of glucose and insulin have been associated with promoting tumor development. Obese people often have chronic low-level inflammation, another cancer risk.
An additional plausible theory for why there may be a cancer risk reduction after bariatric surgery is the habitual changes people make. Bariatric surgery brings a dramatically changed lifestyle, with a newfound awareness of one’s health and habits. Staying on top of exercise, doctor’s appointments and other healthy habits have their own preventative benefits.
Even if further evidence proves a direct association between bariatric surgery and lowering cancer risk, the same criteria still apply for being a candidate. In other words, if you are a little overweight and have a genetic predisposition for cancer, it doesn’t clear you for weight loss surgery. What it does do, however, is underscore the importance of achieving a healthy weight to lower your risk for cancer, and all the other well documented health risks.