In previous research, bariatric surgery has been shown to have many potential health benefits beyond loss of excess body weight — including a lower cancer risk in people with type 2 diabetes who experience diabetes remission as a result of the surgery. Of course, type 2 diabetes remission — having normal blood glucose levels without taking any glucose-lowering medications — is itself a major potential benefit from bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery has also been shown to reduce the risk for cardiovascular problems, reduce the risk for diabetic retinopathy (eye disease), and help improve mobility while reducing pain related to hip and knee function. The potential benefits of bariatric surgery are so clear and wide-ranging, in fact, that guidelines on the surgery were recently updated to include expanded eligibility for the procedure.
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For the latest study, researchers looked at health outcomes in 908,849 adults with severe obesity between January 2010 and December 2017. A group of 303,709 participants who underwent bariatric surgery were matched with 605,140 participants who did not have the surgery, based on having otherwise similar characteristics such as age, sex, body weight, and health problems other than obesity.
Bariatric surgery linked to reduced risk for stomach, esophageal cancer
During a median follow-up time of 6.06 years for the bariatric surgery group and 5.62 years for the matched group that didn’t have the surgery, 337 participants developed stomach or esophageal cancer — 83 who had bariatric surgery and 254 who didn’t have the surgery. That translates to a rate of 4.9 new cancer cases per 100,000 people per year for the bariatric surgery group, compared with 6.9 for the matched group that didn’t have the surgery. Once as many differences as possible between the two groups were adjusted for, the researchers found that participants who underwent bariatric surgery were 24% less likely to develop stomach or esophageal cancer, and they were 40% less likely to die of all causes.
These results suggest that “bariatric surgery can be performed as treatment for severe obesity without increasing the risk of esophageal and gastric cancer,” the researchers wrote, which has been a theoretical concern among some researchers who study bariatric surgery — particularly because people who undergo the surgery are at higher risk for gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), as noted in an article on the study at MedPage Today GERD is known to cause changes to the esophagus that can, in some people, lead to the development of esophageal cancer.
Want to learn more about bariatric surgery? Read “Is Bariatric Surgery for You?” and “Bariatric Surgery and Diabetes: Questions and Answers.”
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