A Surgery To Treat Obesity Found to Significantly Lower Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

According to EMJ, findings from an analysis spanning 20 years has found that weight loss surgery used to address obesity also significantly lowers a person’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The study analyzed 1,435,350 patients who were already both obese and had diabetes, putting them at higher risk.  The cancer has increased in rate in recent years and has low survival rates, causing researchers to ask how to prevent it from ever developing in the first place. Now, they have some answers.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer in the pancreas, part of the stomach involved in food digestion. The cancer is hard to diagnose because there aren’t obvious early symptoms. As the disease progresses, patients start to exhibit fatigue, depression, lack of appetite, diabetes, unexplained weight loss, pain in the abdomen, blood clots, dark urine, and bowel obstruction. Because it is hard to catch early, it’s also harder to treat. However, there are surgeries, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and other symptomatic care.

Rises in Cases

Between 1990 and 2016, rates of pancreatic cancer have increased  by about 5% within the EU. This is concerning because of the severity of the disease. According the EMJ reviews, the lead author of the study, Dr. Aslam Syed explained,
“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 5 years.”
These rates are correlated to an increase in obesity, a factor that increases the risk of this disease. Dr. Syed explained,
“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.”


Of the near 1.5 million patients surveyed, 10,620 of them had undergone bariatric surgery to reduce their weight. Within this group, .19% of patients developed the cancer versus .32% of the larger group. This is considered very significant.

In an effort to cut down the risk, the researchers believe preventative measures could place a significant role in stopping the disease. While pancreatic cancer may not be the first disease on one’s mind when seeking out this surgery, the beneficial effects are notable and important as obesity and diabetes become increasingly common.

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