Impact of bariatric surgery on cancer risk reduction
Obesity is second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of cancer in the US. By multifactorial and often additive mechanisms, obesity leads to the development and promotion of 40% of the cancers diagnosed in this country, including post-menopausal breast, endometrial, colorectal, kidney, liver and pancreatic cancers, among others. Though prevention of obesity should be the ultimate goal of thoughtful and effective healthcare practices, it remains a highly prevalent condition, and morbid obesity (BMI ≥40 Kg/m2) can be refractory to lifestyle interventions in many cases. Currently bariatric surgery is an effective treatment strategy for individuals who suffer from morbid obesity or obesity with associated co-morbidities and fail to lose weight under a medically supervised diet and exercise program. The current review addresses seminal studies that have investigated the potential cancer prevention effects of bariatric surgery, demonstrating a positive impact mostly in post-menopausal breast and endometrial cancers. The controversial association between bariatric surgery and increased colorectal cancer (CRC) risk is also recognized and discussed. Finally, while bariatric surgery should not be routinely recommended as a cancer prevention strategy, it has the potential to decrease the risk for certain types of cancers as a collateral beneficial effect.