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Cancer Health Center

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Weight Loss Surgery May Cut Cancer Risk

Study Shows Fewer Cancers for Obese Patients Who Underwent Bariatric Surgery

Weight Loss and Cancer Risk continued...

The bariatric surgery patients had an 85% lower incidence of breast cancer, a 70% lower incidence of colon and pancreatic cancer, a 50% lower incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and a 60% lower incidence of skin cancer.

But because of the small study size, all but the breast cancer finding could have been chance findings, Christou says.

"With breast cancer we can be reasonably certain that the reduction was not due to chance," he says. "The other cancers were certainly trending in that direction, suggesting that there is something here that needs to be investigated further."

Obesity Linked to Many Cancers

Eugenia Calle, PhD, who studies the impact of obesity on cancer for the American Cancer Society, agrees that more research is needed to understand the role of weight loss and weight loss surgery in reducing cancer risk.

Calle tells WebMD that the list of cancers now recognized as being influenced by obesity is both long and growing.

They include cancers of the breast, colon, kidney, liver, pancreas, endometrium, and esophagus. There is even evidence that obesity is a risk factor for leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, she says.

Calle says patients who have had weight loss surgery offer a unique opportunity to study the impact of losing weight on cancer risk.

"It has not been easy to examine weight loss and how it influences cancer, because people don't generally lose a lot of weight and if they do they don't often keep it off," she says. "But this is not true of patients who have bariatric surgery."

No matter how you do it, maintaining a healthy weight is shaping up to be a critical component of cancer prevention, she says.

"After avoiding tobacco, weight control, eating a healthy diet, and staying physically active may be the most important things people can do -- and weight control is probably the most important of the three," she says.

"There is every reason to think that people who lose excess weight and maintain that weight loss -- no matter how they do it -- are going to have a lower risk of cancer going forward."

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