Pancreatic cancer risk in obese patients can be cut by bariatric surgery

obesity
The findings are particularly timely, with rates of diabetes, obesity and pancreatic cancer all on the rise. Photo: Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock
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New York: Researchers have found that weight loss or bariatric surgery significantly cuts the risk of developing pancreatic cancer in people who are obese with diabetes.

The study, published in the UEG Journal, analysed 14,35,350 patients with concurrent diabetes and obesity over a 20-year period.

A total of 10,620 patients within the study had undergone bariatric (weight loss) surgery, an operation that helps patients lose weight by making changes to the digestive system.

The research found that obese patients with diabetes were significantly less likely to develop pancreatic cancer if they had undergone bariatric surgery.

The majority of patients (73 per cent) that underwent surgery within the study were female.

"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," said study lead author Aslam Syed, from health care company - Allegheny Health Network in the US.

The findings are particularly timely, with rates of diabetes, obesity and pancreatic cancer all on the rise.

For pancreatic cancer, cases in the EU increased by 5 per cent between 1990 and 2016 - the highest increase in the EU's top five cancers - with the disease expected to be the second leading cause of cancer death in the near future.

A total of 46,200 people are estimated to die from the disease in Europe in 2020, compared to 42,200 deaths recorded in 2015. The increase in cases is believed to be fuelled by rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Syed explained how preventing pancreatic cancer is crucial, with a lack of improvements in the survival of the disease for four decades.

"The average survival time at diagnosis is particularly bleak for this silent killer, at just 4.6 months, with patients losing 98 per cent of their healthy life expectancy. Only three per cent of patients survive more than five years," he said.

Often referred to as the 'silent killer', symptoms of pancreatic cancer - which include pain in the back or stomach, jaundice and unexplained weight loss - can be hard to identify which adds difficulties in diagnosing patients early.

"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," Syed noted.

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