Weight Loss Surgery May Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk in Patients With Diabetes and Obesity

November 9, 2020
Darlene Dobkowski, MA

These findings, based on a 20-year analysis, may show the benefit with weight loss surgery to reduce the effects of chronic inflammation associated with diabetes and obesity.

Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, significantly reduced the risk for pancreatic cancer in patients with obesity and diabetes, according to study results presented at UEG Week Virtual 2020.

“Obesity and diabetes are well-known risk factors for pancreatic cancer via chronic inflammation, excess hormones and growth factors released by body fat,” said Dr. Aslam Syed, fellow of gastroenterology and hepatology at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “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.”

In this study, data from 1,435,350 patients with obesity and diabetes were assessed over a 20-year period. Of these patients, 10,620 (73% women) underwent bariatric surgery, during which the digestive system is changed to help patients lose weight.

Patients who underwent bariatric surgery were less likely to develop pancreatic cancer compared with those who did not undergo the surgery (0.32% vs. 0.19%).

“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,” said Syed.

In the press release, Syed elaborated on the importance of pancreatic cancer prevention, especially since survival has not improved in this area for 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,” said Syed. “Only 3% of patients survive more than five years.”

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