Weight-loss surgery significantly reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer in obese people with diabetes, a new study finds.
For the study, the researchers analyzed 20 years of data from 1.4 million people, including more than 10,000 who'd had weight-loss surgery. About three-quarters of those who had weight-loss surgery were women.
People who'd had weight-loss surgery were less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who hadn't had the surgery (0.19% versus 0.32%), the investigators found.
"Obesity and diabetes are well-known risk factors for pancreatic cancer via chronic inflammation, excess hormones and growth factors released by body fat," said study author Dr. Aslam Syed, of the division of gastroenterology at Allegheny Health Network, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"Previously, bariatric [weight-loss] 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," Syed explained.
The findings were to be presented Monday at the United European Gastroenterology virtual meeting. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The findings are particularly timely as rates of diabetes, obesity and pancreatic cancer are on the rise, the study authors said in a meeting news release.
Preventing pancreatic cancer is crucial because there haven't been improvements in the survival of the disease for four decades, Syed added.
"The average survival time at diagnosis is particularly bleak for this silent killer, at just 4.6 months, with patients losing 98% of their healthy life expectancy. Only 3% of patients survive more than five years," he said.
Syed said clinicians should consider weight-loss surgery in patients with metabolic disorders to help reduce the risk and burden of pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is often called a silent killer because symptoms — which include pain in the back or stomach, jaundice and unexplained weight loss — can be hard to identify, making early diagnosis difficult.