Bariatric Surgery May Help Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer in Female Patients With Obesity, Hyperinsulinemia

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Bariatric surgery may be associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in female patients with obesity, especially those with hyperinsulinemia at the time of surgery, according to a recent study published by Kristensson et al in JAMA Surgery.

Bariatric surgery is known to be one of the most effective treatment strategies for significant and long-lasting weight loss. The procedure may also provide long-term protection against obesity-related diseases such as various types of cancer.

Study Methods and Results

In the recent study, investigators used data from the SOS study and the Cancer Registry to examine the outcomes of 2,867 female patients with obesity—50% of whom underwent bariatric surgery and 50% of whom received standard (nonsurgical) treatment for obesity. They noted that the patient groups were otherwise comparable in terms of age and body composition.

The investigators discovered that 154 of the patients involved in the study developed breast cancer, 42.9% (n = 66) of whom were in the bariatric surgery group and 57.1% (n = 88) of whom were in the standard treatment group. Unadjusted analyses revealed that the patients who underwent bariatric surgery were 32% less likely to develop breast cancer.

Further, the investigators demonstrated that patients with hyperinsulinemia at baseline, defined as blood insulin levels greater than the group median, had a 52% lower risk of developing breast cancer following bariatric surgery compared with the patients who received standard treatment.


“Guided by our results, we will have better knowledge of which [patients] have the best effect of surgery and which may not experience such favorable outcomes. This facilitates a more personalized care, … ensuring that each patient receives the most appropriate treatment for their condition” emphasized lead study author Felipe Kristensson, MD, a PhD student at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, a physician at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

“The results also reflect the biological mechanisms underlying cancer development in which insulin appears to play an important role. Further research into such mechanisms also paves the way for the development of new cancer treatments,” he concluded.

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