Study: Bariatric Surgery Reduces Cancer Risk for Patients With NAFLD

April 5, 2021
Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

Bariatric surgery can significantly reduce the risk of cancer—and especially obesity-related cancers—by as much as half in individuals with severe obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to a study by researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School's Center for Liver Diseases and Liver Masses, which was published in Gastroenterology. The risk reduction was even more pronounced in individuals with NAFLD-cirrhosis.

The retrospective study looked at de-identified claims data of more than 98,000 privately insured individuals aged 18 to 64 years who were diagnosed with severe obesity and NAFLD between 2007 and 2017, 34.1% of whom subsequently had bariatric surgery. The researchers found that bariatric surgery led to an overall reduction in cancer risk and was associated with significant risk reductions in these individuals for obesity-related cancers—specifically colorectal, pancreatic, endometrial, and thyroid cancers, as well as hepatocellular carcinoma and multiple myeloma.

“We knew that obesity leads to certain problems, including cancer, but no one had ever looked at it the other way around—whether weight loss actually reduced the risk of those cancers,” said study author Vinod K. Rustgi, MD, MBA, professor of medicine, clinical director of hepatology and Director of the Center for Liver Diseases and Liver Masses at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in a press release. “Our study showed that all cancers were decreased, but obesity-related cancers in particular were decreased even more. Specifically, it showed a reduction in risk for all types of cancer by 18%, with the risk for obesity-related cancers being reduced by 25%. When comparing cirrhotic versus non-cirrhotic patients, cancer risk was reduced by 38% and 52%, respectively.”

The researchers plan to explore whether this reduction in cancer risk applies to patients with severe obesity without NAFLD, as well as which factors result in this reduced risk.

REFERENCE

Rutgers study: Bariatric surgery significantly reduces cancer risk for certain patients [news release]. EurekAlert; March 26, 2021. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/ru-rsb032621.php