By analyzing obese women with a high risk of cancer, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of weight loss surgery. Results from their findings included:
1. Weight was reduced by one-third.
2. Mean weight loss was 100 pounds.
3. It eliminated precancerous tumor growth.
4. Physical quality of life improved.
5. Improved insulin levels and glucose use.
6. Altered gut bacteria composition.
Susan C. Modesitt, M.D., from the University of Virginia Cancer Center, said, “If you look at cancers in women, about a fifth of all cancer deaths would be prevented if we had women at normal body weight in the U.S. When you’re looking at obesity-related cancers, the biggest one is endometrial cancer, but also colon cancer, breast cancer, renal cancer and gall bladder cancer. We think about 40 [percent] to 50 percent of all endometrial cancer, which is in the lining of the uterus, is caused by obesity.”
The study examined 71 women with a body mass index (BMI) of 50.9. A BMI of 40 is considered obese, and a BMI of 50 is considered morbidly obese, and yet the women from the study did not identify themselves as obese.
The effects of bariatric surgery were looked at one to three years following the procedure. Of the group, 68 underwent the surgery – two opted out and one died from a heart condition. Mean weight loss was 100 pounds.
Of the women who did not undergo a hysterectomy, precancerous changes were found in the lining of the uterus. Modesitt added, “We’re talking about small numbers, really tiny numbers. So I could never say that effect is definitive, but it is suggestive, given that we know already the incredibly strong link between endometrial cancer and obesity.”
Most surprising were the changes in the metabolic profiles. “The study results demonstrate that there is a huge alteration, but I don’t even know what to say about that, except it is really new and intriguing area to look at in the link between obesity and cancer. For example, before groundbreaking work by Dr. John Marshall at UVA in the past, no one knew that ulcers were from bacteria. Who knows what role the gut bacteria play in promoting obesity, but metabolic parameter/markers of the bacteria definitely changed after [study participants] lost weight,” Modesitt added.
Although weight loss surgery showed benefits for the prevention of cancer, Modesitt urges people to not gain weight in the first place. “We really should be working on diet and exercise from the get-go in our entire society, starting with our children. And exercise does seem to be protective – even if you don’t lose all the weight, it absolutely has beneficial effects.” She noted that exercise and a healthy diet has been shown to be beneficial for health and in the prevention of cancer.
The findings were published in Gynecologic Oncology.