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Cancer Prevention and Bariatric Surgery

More and more people have been asking the team at Dr. Feiz & Associates about whether or not cancer prevention can be included among the long list of weight loss surgery benefits. The short answer is yes.


Cancer Prevention Study in Annals of Surgery


Obesity has long been associated with certain types of cancers, including breast, ovarian, and colon cancer. Considering the effectiveness of weight loss procedures in defeating obesity, it is not too surprising that bariatric surgeries seem to reduce the odds of coming down with a cancer. In a January 2019 study published in the Annals of Surgery, patients who received bariatric surgeries were 33 percent less likely to have developed cancer compared to patients who had not obtained weight loss surgery. Perhaps even more importantly, cancers that are normally linked to obesity—such as breast, endometrium, colon, and pancreatic cancers – dropped an additional eight percent for a total drop of 41 percent. Obviously, these are significant reductions.

It is important to note two things about the study. First, most of the participants were female; there is still a gender imbalance in the number of women received these operations compared to men. Fortunately, most experts agree that men will likely enjoy similar benefits from weight loss surgery. That being said, bariatric procedures do appear to be particularly effective at reducing the chances of two of the most common malignancies found in women: breast cancer and endometrial cancer. The second point about this study is that it only followed patients for a period of four years. The author of the study has noted, however, that there is every reason to anticipate that the benefits will continue alongside lasting weight losses.

In short:

  • Weight loss surgery appears to reduce the chances of developing cancer by 33 to 41 percent compared to patients who do not receive surgery.
  • Endometrial, breast, pancreatic, and colon cancers saw the most significant decline.
  • These results, for the moment, have largely focused mostly on women. Although, it is hypothesized that additional studies geared towards men will confirm similar reductions in the chances of developing cancer.

Reasons for Cancer Prevention in Weight Loss Surgery


Obesity has been linked to as many as 13 different types of cancer and is generally the second most common cancer risk factor, right after smoking. In fact, as tobacco smoking in the United States continues to decline, obesity may soon become the most common cause of cancer.

At the same time, the exact relationship between obesity and cancer is not fully understood. Belly fat, generally the most statistically dangerous type of fat, appears to be one potential culprit. One theory suggests that the extra fat may alter the levels of hormones and other bodily chemicals, thus causing various types of cancers to develop. It is also possible that the correlation between obesity and a high cancer risk may be based on a sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity has long been thought to be a potential cause for cancer—the combination of a lack of exercise and obesity may produce an exceptionally high risk for cancer when combined. This is worsened by the fact that even formerly very active overweight people may be too hampered by pain and other issues for all but the most minor exertion.

Additionally, diets high in ultra-processed foods, specifically those that have high sugar and fat contents, have long been associated with both obesity and cancer. Moreover, some highly processed foods may also induce a higher cancer risk independent of obesity.

Aside from encouraging patients to eat a great deal less than before, weight loss surgery also supports a healthier lifestyle with better diet choices and more frequent exercise. Ultra-processed foods tend to be discouraged. If eaten in excess, they may trigger a condition called dumping syndrome which, as the name implies, carries with it a number of unpleasant and sometimes painful symptoms. Not surprisingly, most bariatric patients tend to avoid such food.

Ultimately, however, all of the health benefits of bariatric surgery, including reduced risk of cancer, boil down to the ability to defeat obesity once and for all. The unfortunate fact is that most people are unable to permanently lose sufficient weight to defeat obesity without the help of a surgical procedure. This is because bariatric medicine is currently the only therapy that directs attacks the reason for the otherwise gloomy statistics about weight loss: pangs of appetite that are almost impossible to ignore over a long period. Surgery makes dramatic and permanent weight loss possible and, along with it, dramatic and long-lasting health benefits that will mean a longer and much happier life.


Getting Started with Dr. Feiz & Associates


If you or a loved one has been struggling with severe obesity – defined as a BMI (body mass index) of 40 and above or 35 and above with weight-related health problems – Dr. Michael Feiz and his team of medical professional are here to provide all of the information needed to make an informed decision. To find out more, contact Dr. Feiz & Associates today by calling the phone number above or reaching out through our contact page.

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