New Study Reveals Weight Loss Surgery for Obese Women May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

Let’s be honest. For a lot of people, the prospect of going under the knife is not only a terrifying thing, but a last resort. Others may view it as a quick and easy fix to a stubborn problem. But what if a cosmetic procedure could be used to potentially save your life?

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A new study approved by the National Institutes of Health found that bariatric surgery is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women who are severely obese.

What is bariatric surgery?
Bariatric surgeries cause weight loss by restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold or preventing the absorption and digestion of nutrients. Gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy are a couple of the most common forms of bariatric surgeries. These procedures can have a series of potential risks and side effects, such as excessive bleeding, infection, blood clots, gallstones, hernias, or malnutrition, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. However, the study suggests they may be helpful for those who meet the criteria and want to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

How can it help?
The study, published in the Annals of Surgery, examined 17,998 obese women who had bariatric surgery and 53,889 women of the same body mass index (BMI) with no surgery over a period of four years. The results found that premenopausal women who received the weight-loss operation had a 28 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who didn’t. The risk reduction was even greater for postmenopausal women, who saw their risk of breast cancer reduced by 45 percent.

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This is due to the fact that having more fat tissue increases the body’s estrogen levels, making it possible for estrogen receptor (ER)-positive cancers to develop. The tumors in these ER cancers rely on the production of estrogen for growth. By reducing the amount of fat tissue in one’s body, you can reduce the amount of estrogen, and therefore lower the risk of getting breast cancer.

The catch
Getting rid of the extra weight—like all methods of weight loss—is one thing. But keeping it off is another. Researchers found that the breast cancer risk reduction began to diminish about three years after the procedures were performed, which was possibly when subjects began to regain their weight. Further studies where patients are examined for a longer period of time will be needed to see if the health effects of bariatric surgery can be maintained.

Weight loss surgery isn’t for everyone, and it’s important to remember that the study only shows positive effects for those who are severely obese. If you are considering weight loss surgery, or have questions about reducing your risk of breast cancer, you should consult with your doctor.

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