Weight Loss Surgery May Decrease Risk of Developing Pancreatic Cancer in Obese, Diabetic Patients


A 20-year analysis presented at UEG Week Virtual 2020 suggested that weight loss surgery significantly decreases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer in individuals who are obese with diabetes.

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

For pancreatic cancer, cases in the EU were found to have increased by 5% between 1990 and 2016, which is the highest increase in the EU’s top five cancers, with the disease anticipated to become the second leading cause of cancer death. Moreover, 46,200 people are estimated to die from the disease in Europe in 2020, compared to 42,200 deaths recorded in 2015. This increase in cases is thought to be fueled by rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“Obesity and diabetes are well-known risk factors for pancreatic cancer via chronic inflammation, excess hormones and growth factors released by body fat,” lead author Aslam Syed, MD, a gastroenterology fellow at the Allegheny Health Network, said in a press release. “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.”

The study evaluated 1,435,350 patients with concurrent diabetes and obesity over a 20-year period. Overall, 10,620 patients within the study had previously undergone bariatric surgery.

Obese patients with diabetes were revealed to be significantly less likely to develop pancreatic cancer if they had undergone bariatric surgery (prevalence of 0.32% vs 0.19%, P < .05). Of note, the majority of patients (73%) that underwent surgery within the study were female.

“The average survival time at diagnosis [of pancreatic cancer] is particularly bleak for this silent killer, at just 4.6 months, with patients losing 98% of their healthy life expectancy,” Syed explained. “Only 3% of patients survive more than 5 years.”

A disease often referred to as the “silent killer,” symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be hard to identify, making it more difficult to diagnose 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 concluded.

Reference:

Weight loss surgery in obese diabetic patients significantly cuts pancreatic cancer risk [news release]. Vienna. Published October 12, 2020. Accessed October 28, 2020. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/sh-wls100520.php

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