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Bariatric Surgery, Weight loss, and Lower Risk of Skin Cancer

Another great reason to lose weight if you are really overweight (let's be honest, the term is "obese") is a lower risk of two types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and melanomaObesity is considered a cancer risk, that is, it increases the risk of cancer, and after bariatric surgery there is a lower risk of cancer.

A long-running study in Sweden (Swedish Obese Subjects study) followed 2 groups of obese individuals for 18 years - 1 group received bariatric surgery (2007 persons) and the other group didn't (2040 persons). They found that the group who had received bariatric surgery, along with a large weight loss, had a significantly lower risk of getting squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma  than the group who received conventional "obesity treatment" (such as advice on losing weight).

How much weight did they lose after the surgery? After 2 years the average weight loss in the surgery group was 63.27 pounds (28.7 kg), which leveled off to 47.62 lbs (47.62 kg) by the 15 year follow-up visit. The weight changes in the non-surgery (control) group was small and never exceeded 6.61 pounds in gains or losses.

The researchers give a number of reasons why a large weight loss may be contributing to reduced risk of skin cancer, including leptin uptake changes, lower chronic systemic inflammation, and changes in gut microbes. In summary, they found a 42% lower risk for both forms of skin cancer combined, and 57% lower risk of malignant melanoma in the surgery group (as compared to the non-surgery group).

BOTTOM LINE: If you are really overweight, then try, try, try to lose a big chunk of weight. Your body will thank you in many ways. Not just lower risk of some cancers (including breast cancer), lower risk of diabetes, increased chance of diabetes reversal, lower risk of dementia, lower chronic systemic inflammation, better sperm quality, and on and on.

The CDC says that a person with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30.0 or higher is obese, and being overweight is a BMI of 25 to less than 30. [Body Mass Index table]

From Medical Xpress: Lower risk for malignant melanoma after bariatric surgery  

Bariatric surgery is associated with a distinct reduction in skin-cancer risk, a study shows. This finding can be described as a key piece of evidence that substantiates the connection between weight loss and malignant skin cancer.

"This provides further evidence for a connection between obesity and malignant skin cancer, and for the view that we should regard obesity as a risk factor for these forms of cancer," says Magdalena Taube, the first author behind the study and a researcher in molecular and clinical medicine at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

That obesity is a risk factor for several types of cancer is well known. The same applies to the fact that people's risk level can be lowered by means of an intentional weight reduction. However, the evidence for a connection between obesity and weight loss on the one hand and, in particular, malignant skin cancer on the other has been limited to date.

The current study, published in JAMA Dermatology, used data from what is known as the SOS (Swedish Obese Subjects) study, which is led and coordinated from the University of Gothenburg... The researchers studied a group of 2,007 people who underwent bariatric surgery, and compared them with a control group of 2,040 individuals. The latter also had severe obesity but were not given bariatric surgery. Otherwise, in terms of gender, age, body composition, risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and psychosocial variables, the groups were comparable.

The surgery group included 23 individuals who developed malignant skin cancer, i.e. squamous cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma, in parallel with marked weight loss. The corresponding figure for such cancer cases in the control group was 45, while this group remained at the severe obesity level. The median follow-up period was just over 18 years.

The largest difference related to malignant melanoma: 12 people in the surgery group were affected, against 29 in the control group. The results thus show a 57 percent fall in risk for malignant melanoma in the group who lost weight after bariatric surgery. The corresponding risk decrease for both cancer forms combined was 42 percent.

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