Weight Loss Surgery Cuts Cancer

  by  |  October 9th, 2008  |  Published in All, Featured, Health

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It’s already known that weight-loss surgery for morbid obesity can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart problems. Now, new research shows that it may also cut a person’s risk of cancer by 80-percent.

[If you cannot see the flash video below, you can click here for a high quality mp4 video.]

Interviewees: Jennifer Schultz, Nicolas Christou, McGill University Health Ctr, Canada –Produced by Sunita Reed — Edited by Sunita Reed, James Eagan
Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc.

A Transformed Life

Today, 46-year-old Jennifer Schultz rides a bike, eats healthy food and snowboards with her 20-year-old daughter Matika Made. But just five years ago things were much different. Schultz battled obesity ever since she was a child.

“It’s embarrassing and it’s self– you don’t feel good about yourself at all,” says Schultz.

Self-esteem was one thing. But it was the fear that obesity-related health issues could prevent her from taking care of her daughter that prompted Schultz to have gastric bypass surgery. Now four and a half years later, the surgeon who performed that procedure has announced new research indicating that gastric bypass comes with yet another benefit.

Weight-loss surgery significantly reduces cancer risk, says Dr. Nicolas Christou, Director of Bariatric Surgery at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada.

“There is no question whatsoever that weight-loss surgery reduces your relative risk of developing a cancer,” says Christou.

Also on ScienCentral

He and his colleagues compared more than 1,000 morbidly obese people who had weight-loss surgery to thousands of people with the same weight profile who did not have the surgery.

He found that the surgery patients’ overall risk of cancer was 78-percent lower over the five years of the study. For breast cancer the risk was reduced by 83-percent.

Christou says that’s not surprising considering what is already known in the bariatrics field. Many studies have shown that obesity is associated with increased cancer risk. However, he says researchers do not yet know why there is such a decrease in cancer risk with the surgery.

Christou points out that he and other researchers have previously found that weight-loss surgery greatly decreases the risk of death and some found a decrease in death due to cancer. He says his current study supports the prior research but also examined what kinds of cancers are impacted. Because the study was small, he was only able to show a statistical significance in the overall risk of cancer (78-percent lower) and breast cancer (83-percent lower). Christou says there is also preliminary evidence suggesting that the risk of cancers of the colon and pancreas were also reduced; larger studies would be needed to confirm that.

Patients in the study underwent two types of bariatric surgery, gastric bypass and adjustable gastric banding. Christou explains that in gastric bypass surgery, the surgeon cuts the stomach to make a tiny pouch of a stomach. Food goes into the tiny pouch and can no longer get into the larger part of the stomach. The surgeon then joins the pouch to a part of the small intestine so the food bypasses the rest of the stomach and some parts of the small intestine, reducing the body’s ability to absorb calories. Christou says that the banding procedure, which only makes the size of the stomach smaller, is the less common type of bariatric surgery but could be a good option for some people.

Bariatric surgery does have risks and like any surgery, complications could lead to death. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) weight-loss surgery is an option for those who "cannot lose weight by traditional means or who suffer from serious obesity-related health problems." The NIDDK also lists possible early complications of bariatric surgery such as bleeding, infections and blood clots. The NIDDK says that some of the complications that could arise later are malnutrition and hernias.

Schultz, who lost 130 pounds in the first year following surgery, says the surgery allowed her to become the happy person that she always knew was inside.

“I snowboard, I cycle, I cross country ski, I play squash, I’m willing and able to do anything that I wasn’t to do and that’s an amazing feeling,” she says.

Schultz says the news that the surgery may have reduced the risk of cancer is an added bonus to all the other health benefits she is experiencing now. She lives in Canada where she runs a support group for morbidly obese people and co-founded the Coalition against Morbid Obesity, whose goal is to raise awareness of the condition and foster better access to bariatric surgery.

According to the American Society for Metabolic Surgery (ASMBS) , an obese person has a body mass index or BMI of 30-39.9 and a person with a BMI of 40 or more is considered morbidly obese. The ASMBS says that more than one-third of all adults in the U.S. are obese.

PUBLICATION: Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, available online September 22, 2008
RESEARCH FUNDED BY: Ethicon Endosurgery Canada and Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Elsewhere on the Web:

National Cancer Institute information on obesity and cancer
National Institutes of Health information on obesity
American Diabetes Association

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  1. sophia jason says:

    October 13th, 2008 at 7:10 am (#)

    The latest research shows that being overweight raises the risk for colon cancer and esophageal cancer. For more information visit this link
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  2. Abraham says:

    October 27th, 2008 at 4:45 am (#)

    I am shocked seeing that heavy weight can also cause cancer. We should take it seriously and go for some weight loss programs to be away from cancer. I found a good weight loss program which can be effective to you also friends

  3. George Yeo says:

    November 20th, 2008 at 11:52 am (#)

    I still think that although weight loss is strongly encouraged, surgery is still too risky. It should only be the last option when all else has failed.

  4. Wayne says:

    March 3rd, 2009 at 2:42 pm (#)

    The CDC estimates that 10% of all health care yearly expenditures goes to fighting the diseases related to obesity. Weight loss programs should be the prime focus of this nation to prevent diseases such as heart attack, stokes, and diabetes.

  5. From Obese to Fit: Jennifer's Story | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News says:

    April 17th, 2009 at 1:26 pm (#)

    [...] year, the SciencCentral story Weight Loss Surgery Cuts Cancer featured Jennifer Schultz’ experience of gastric bypass surgery. In this extended video [...]

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    November 3rd, 2009 at 8:43 pm (#)

    i easily Loss Weight by just avoiding a high carb and foods high in saturated fats. exercise is also very important in losing weight that is why i did cardio.

  8. Julian Welsh says:

    November 14th, 2009 at 7:02 pm (#)

    I was intrigued, too. And this morning on the weekend Early Show they were saying how overeating is the major cause of a short life. So it’s a real mental game to eat only what you need. Glad surgery helps, but wouldn’t put my hope in it. Julian

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    Weight Loss can be achieved easily through exercise. You should also consider a healthy and balance diet that is free from saturated fat. Avoid sugary foods too.

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    Exercise and strict dieting can do magic if you are trying to lose weight. I did a lot of cardio just to lose weight.,`;

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