According to a new Canadian study morbidly obese patients who have surgery to reduce their stomach size could lower their risk of developing cancer by about 80 per cent.
Researchers from McGill University in Montreal compared 1,035 patients who had bariatric surgery between 1986 and 2002 with 5,746 obese patients who did not undergo the surgery. The patients were matched by age, gender and the duration of time they were diagnosed with morbid obesity.
During the five-year follow up period, 2 per cent of patients who underwent bariatric surgery were diagnosed with cancer, while 8.5 per cent were diagnosed with cancer in the group that didn't have surgery.
The study also found that the patients who had bariatric surgery lost on average more than 67 per cent of their extra body weight.
The findings were presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMB) in Washington, D.C.
Previous studies have revealed that bariatric surgery can improve outcomes from heart disease and can cause significant improvement in patients with diabetes and sleep apnea.
"This is confirmatory evidence that weight loss is good for you and makes you feel better, makes you feel lighter," said lead study author Dr. Nicolas Christou, director of bariatric surgery and professor of surgery at McGill University.
"But the icing on the cake, so to speak, is it can reduce your chance of developing cancer and improve your diabetes, sleep apnea and reduces your risk of dying once you lose the weight."
Researchers have put forth the theory that fat cells may store environmental toxins that can trigger the development of some cancers. They are also of the opinion that excess weight may alter hormone levels, which could also influence the development of disease.
U.S. National Institutes of Health guidelines advise bariatric surgery for people with a body mass index BMI of 35 or more with an obesity-related condition, or a BMI of 40 or more. BMI is calculated by dividing weight of a person in kilograms by height in meters squared.