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Study Finds That Weight Loss Surgery Reduces the Risk of Cancer

Study Finds That Weight Loss Surgery Reduces the Risk of Cancer


According to a study conducted by researchers at McGill University in Montreal, people who undergo bariatric surgery for obesity don't just lose weight, they become 80 percent less likely to develop cancer.

The most dramatic reductions were in the risk of developing breast cancer (85 percent) and colon cancer (70 percent).

The study also found a decreased rate of skin cancer, pancreatic cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and uterine cancer.

The research includes a study of almost 6,800 morbidly obese individuals, less than one-fifth of whom underwent weight loss surgery. These individuals were monitored by researchers over a five-year period.

The remaining participants did not undergo bariatric surgery, but were of similar weight and age.

Obesity and Cancer: A Deadly Relationship?

The McGill University study found a reduced rate of six types of cancers among participants who underwent weight loss surgery. Of those, five had previously been connected to obesity:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (Source, The National Institute of Environmental Medicine)

Conversely, there is no conclusive evidence that obesity is related to skin cancer. A 2006 Australian study found that there is no association, while a Swiss study published in 2008 did find an association between obesity and skin cancer.

Research has also found a link between obesity and the following types of cancer:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer

However, some scientists believe obesity is related to most, if not all, forms of cancer.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, except where noted)

Do the Health Benefits of Bariatric Surgery Outweigh the Risks

In addition to extreme weight loss and reduction in the rate of developing cancer, men and women who have undergone weight loss surgery experience a range of other health benefits, including improvements in:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Infertility

Of course, every surgery inherently carries with it some degree of risk. Some of the most common complications following bariatric surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Cardiac problems
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Rupture of wounds
  • Nausea
  • Food intolerance
  • Hernias
  • Infections
  • Ulcers
  • Spleen injuries
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Heartburn

Additionally, some patients have found that they gradually begin to gain back weight after undergoing bariatric surgery. Men and women who undergo weight loss surgery may want to consult a physician, join a bariatric surgery support group, and make necessary changes to their lifestyles following the procedure to maintain results.

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