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Bariatric Surgery Seems to Reduce Risk

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A study found that severely overweight people who lost weight after weight-loss surgery -- also called bariatric surgery -- lowered their overall risk of developing cancer by 80% during the 5 years after surgery. The women in this study who had bariatric surgery were 85% less likely than severely overweight women who didn't have bariatric surgery to develop breast cancer.

Over 1,000 men and women who were severely obese and had bariatric surgery were followed in this study. Obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 and over. The researchers followed the health history of these people for 5 years after their surgery and compared them to nearly 6,000 other people who were similar to them in weight and other characteristics, but who did not have bariatric surgery.

In addition to the lower risk of breast cancer in the women who had the weight-loss surgery, people in the study who had surgery lowered their risk of colon cancer by 70%. They also decreased their risks of a variety of other cancers, including pancreatic cancer, skin cancer, uterine cancer, and one type of lymphoma.

For some time now doctors have recognized the link between obesity and cancer risk. Research has shown that weight loss can lower the risk of breast and other cancers. For most overweight people a healthy diet and regular exercise are effective ways to lose weight and enjoy the many health benefits that can accompany weight loss.

For severely overweight people in whom diet and lifestyle modifications have not resulted in necessary weight loss, bariatric surgery can be a good option. There are several approaches to this type of surgery. All of them result in a dramatic decrease in the size of the stomach. This change in stomach size causes people to feel full after eating even small amounts of food, and so their appetite is substantially decreased after surgery. The weight loss seen after bariatric surgery can be quite dramatic. In addition to improvements in overall health and quality of life, the research reviewed in this article suggests that losing weight after bariatric surgery can also substantially decrease cancer risk, including breast cancer risk.

Bariatric surgery is only appropriate for severely overweight people in whom other approaches to adequate weight loss have failed. This type of surgery can result in serious complications during and after surgery, and troublesome side effects during and after recovery. Newer approaches to this type of surgery are lowering the chances of these side effects and complications.

If you are overweight and want to do all that you can to improve your overall health and lower your risks of breast and other cancers, you should talk to your doctor about sensible weight loss approaches for you. Non-surgical approaches to weight loss make sense for most people. If you are severely overweight, bariatric surgery may be an option for you, but this approach should only be considered when you cannot adequately lose weight with other approaches. If you are considering bariatric surgery, work with your doctor to find a surgeon very experienced with the procedure and with the special medical, nutritional, and other types of care required after surgery.

You can find more information about a healthy approach to eating, exercise, and weight loss in the Nutrition section.

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