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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Bariatric surgery cuts risk of developing cancer by 50%

Health Industry Hub | May 8, 2023 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: Bariatric surgery, a procedure to reduce the size of the stomach, has been found to be linked with a lower risk of newly diagnosed cancer among people with obesity, according to a study presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) 2023.

The research, led by Dr Vibhu Chittajallu, a gastroenterology fellow at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals, analysed the medical records of more than 55,700 patients with obesity who underwent bariatric surgery and a control group who did not.

“There is a lot of strong data on the benefits of weight loss after bariatric surgery,” said Dr Chittajallu, “but its impact on cancer hasn’t been fully investigated. This study further highlights the role of bariatric surgery and its association with de novo cancer formation.”

Researchers found that bariatric surgery reduced the rate of newly diagnosed cancer by half. After ten years, the cumulative incidence of obesity-related cancers was 4% in the surgery group compared to 8.9% in the control group. The prevalence of breast, colon, liver, and ovarian cancers was also found to be statistically lower in the surgery group.

“Using large national databases, we were able to observe trends that haven’t been accessible in smaller studies. For example, this allowed us to better pinpoint the impact of bariatric surgery on specific cancer types,” Dr Chittajallu said.

Dr Betsy Dovec, Bariatric Surgeon from Orlando, Central Florida, US and Dr Calista Spiro, Bariatric Surgeon from Canberra joined Health Industry Hub recently to reflect on the bariatric surgery landscape.

In Australia, over 90% of all bariatric surgeries are performed in the private sector, highlighting the disparity in funding and capacity for bariatric surgery between the private and public hospital sectors. Dr Spiro commented on the key barriers and why it is critical to improve equity of access to care.

While the demand on hospital capacity has increased significantly due to the pandemic and workforce shortages, Dr Dovec’s research on a novel care pathway provides a safe and effective solution to this issue and is supporting her in the development of a first-of-its-kind ‘bariatric only’ ambulatory surgery centre.

Dr Chittajallu emphasised that while weight loss is often considered the primary benefit of bariatric surgery, this study highlights the potential significance of weight loss for overall health, including reducing the risk of cancer.

The study is notable for its large sample size, which allowed researchers to identify specific cancer types that are impacted by bariatric surgery.

He cautioned that it is difficult to draw conclusions about the cause-and-effect relationship between bariatric surgery and cancer risk due to the retrospective nature of the study. However, Dr Chittajallu is excited about the questions and hypotheses this research generates, such as whether different types of bariatric surgery have a differential impact on cancer incidence, and whether nonsurgical weight loss modalities may have a similar protective effect.

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