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Weight Loss Surgery Could Save You From This Fatal Cancer

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Weight loss surgery yields even more health benefits.

A new 20-year analysis finds that diabetics who have weight loss surgery are significantly less likely to develop this almost-always fatal cancer.

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Obesity and Diabetes are Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

A new study presented at the UEG (United European Gastroenterology) Week Virtual 2020 meeting reports that obesity contributes to poorer prognosis and survival rates compared to non-obese patients and that the added condition of diabetes results in a significant likelihood of developing fatal pancreatic cancer. In fact:

• Compared to individuals with a healthy body mass index (BMI), obese patients are found to have a 47% higher risk of pancreatic cancer.

• And, while there is an increased risk of pancreatic cancer in patients with long-standing diabetes, recent-onset diabetes is frequently associated with pancreatic malignancy. Individuals who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within 4 years have a 50% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer, in comparison to individuals who have had diabetes for 5 years or more.

However, the study also reports that diabetic patients who undergo bariatric surgery for weight loss were recently found to become significantly less likely to develop pancreatic cancer due to their surgery.

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According to a news release from the UEG Week Virtual 2020 meeting, data from 1,435,350 patients with concurrent diabetes and obesity over a 20-year period was analyzed showing that of the nearly one and a half million patients, a total of 10,620 had undergone bariatric (weight loss) surgery.

Aside from an improvement in their health due to the surgery and subsequent weight loss, the number crunching also revealed that those same patients also benefited from becoming significantly less likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

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Lead author Dr. Aslam Syed, from the Allegheny Health Network, Division of Gastroenterology in Pittsburgh, USA, commented, "Obesity and diabetes are well-known risk factors for pancreatic cancer via chronic inflammation, excess hormones and growth factors released by body fat. Previously, bariatric surgery has been shown to improve high blood sugar levels in diabetic patients and our research shows that this surgery is a viable way in reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer in this growing, at-risk group."

The importance of these findings is that it could help stem the rise in cases of pancreatic cancer which has grown in the European Union by 5% between 1990 and 2016—and is believed to be due to the concurrent rise in both obesity and cases of type 2 diabetes.

The news release tells us that Dr. Syed explains how preventing pancreatic cancer is crucial due to a lack of improvements in the survival of the disease for four decades. "The average survival time at diagnosis is particularly bleak for this silent killer, at just 4.6 months, with patients losing 98% of their healthy life expectancy. Only 3% of patients survive more than five years."

Part of the reason for the extremely high mortality rate of pancreatic cancer is due to a lack of early detection. Symptoms that include pain in the back or stomach, jaundice and unexplained weight loss can be difficult to trace toward cancer of the pancreas as the cause.

With the lack in improvements toward early detection, weight loss surgery might become a proven therapeutic prevention modality that offers multiple benefits to patients who are obese and likely to become diabetic.

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"Clinicians should consider bariatric surgery in patients with metabolic disorders, such as diabetes and obesity, to help reduce the risk and burden of pancreatic cancer," states Dr. Syed.

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Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Ahmad Ardity from Pixabay

Reference: "Bariatric Surgery Decreases Prevalence Of Pancreatic Cancer In Patients With Prior Diabetes And Obesity: A 20-Year National Analysis." Syed A., Presented at UEG Week Virtual 2020. News release "Weight loss surgery in obese diabetic patients significantly cuts pancreatic cancer risk" 11 Oct. 2020.

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