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New research indicates weight loss surgery may reduce risk for hormone-related cancers

It has long been known that being overweight increases your risk for many serious health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Now, there’s evidence that weight loss surgery may impact an individual’s risk of developing cancer.

Patients who underwent gastric bypass, gastric banding or sleeve gastrectomy had a 77 percent decreased risk of developing hormone-related cancers—such as breast, endometrial or prostate cancer—when compared with those who did not have the surgery, according to a new study published July 13 in BJS, the British Journal of Surgery.

“For many years, doctors have known that weight loss surgery can have a positive impact on their patients’ health and quality of life,” said Stephen G. Boyce, M.D.,  bariatric surgeon and medical director of the Tennova Center for Surgical Weight Loss at Turkey Creek Medical Center and New Life Center for Bariatric Surgery in Knoxville . “Now, we have added evidence that bariatric surgery slashes hormone-related cancer risk.”

The national population-based cohort study used data from the Hospital Episode Statistics database in England, collected between 1997 and 2012, and matched 8,794 obese patients who underwent bariatric surgery with 8,794 controls who did not have the surgery. In both groups, the median age of study participants was 42 years old, and the median follow-up was 55 months.

Dr. Stephen Boyce, Bariatric Surgeon

According to the study findings, bariatric surgery was associated with a five-fold decrease in the risk of hormone-related cancers, particularly in patients who had undergone gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy. Additional studies are needed to understand the biological mechanisms behind these findings.

“While it’s natural to think about obesity in terms of appearance,” Dr. Boyce said, “the real impact of excessive body weight is on an individual’s overall health and longevity. This new study brings attention to the role of bariatric surgery in protection from obesity-related disease.”

There are several types of bypass procedures, but all of them bypass part of the small intestine that absorbs nutrients. Techniques available at the Tennova Center for Surgical Weight Loss involve stapling off an area of the stomach to create a smaller pouch or surgically removing part of the stomach, both of which create a smaller stomach area. Gastric bypass reduces production of the appetite hormone called Grehlin, making it easier to eat less.

With vertical sleeve gastrectomy, also offered at Tennova, the surgeon removes the left side of the stomach through small incisions, so the remaining stomach is approximately one-tenth of the original size after about one year. This “new” stomach has a much smaller capacity, which means patients feel full or satisfied after eating only a small amount of food. The procedure has also proven to reduce the appetite hormone Grehlin. Less appetite combined with a smaller stomach makes it even easier to eat less food and lose weight.

“Obese individuals—especially those who are more than 100 pounds over their ideal weight—should look at the results of this new study and give thoughtful consideration to bariatric surgery,” Dr. Boyce said. “For those with an individual or family history of certain cancers, this latest research offers great promise and underscores that surgery should not be your last resort to obtaining health and wellness.”

If you’ve failed to lose weight through conventional methods, Tennova invites you to attend a free seminar to find out if you are a candidate for weight loss surgery. The seminar outlines the steps that have to be taken to proceed with surgery, and offers you an opportunity to meet with the surgical weight loss team so they can answer any questions you may have.

Weight loss surgery seminars are held on the first and third Thursday of each month, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., at Turkey Creek Medical Center, 10820 Parkside Drive, Knoxville. For more information or to register for a seminar, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit TennovaWeightLoss.com. Please register at least one day in advance of the seminar.

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