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Weight loss surgery also lowers cancer risk, study suggests

“Pretty much all cancers across the board, like breast cancer had half the risk of developing cancer over the 10-year period..." said Dr. Tom Lavin.

NEW ORLEANS — Doctors who perform weight loss surgery and their patients have seen the many health benefits of the procedure for quite some time, but now two new studies show this surgery can save lives and protect against a deadly disease.

Jamie Zepeda is a medical assistant at Surgical Specialists of Louisiana. She helps patients coming in for bariatric surgery for weight loss, but she decided to become a patient as well.

“I had fatty liver, high cholesterol, hypertension,” said Zepeda.

Gastric sleeve surgery not only helped her lose weight, but also treat those dangerous health conditions of hers, but now a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds a sharp decrease in cancer after bariatric weight loss surgery.

“Pretty much all cancers across the board, like breast cancer had half the risk of developing cancer over the 10-year period, where brain cancers, and thyroid cancers were four times more likely if you did not have bariatric surgery over that 10-year period,” explained Dr. Tom Lavin.

Bariatric surgeon Dr. Tom Lavin of Surgical Specialists of Louisiana says this study is significant because it looked at 30,000 people with and without the surgery.

“And the results were overwhelming in favor of if you had bariatric surgery, your risk of cancer was much less,” he said.

And there was also a sharp decrease in the risk of dying of cancer.

When patients come in to talk to doctors, of course they talk about the emotional benefits of weight loss, but they also talk about the benefits when it comes to heart disease, and infertility, and orthopedic pain, lung problems, and diabetes, but now with this study out, they're also going to talk to them about the benefits in fighting cancer.

Jamie says she will talk to potential patients about this finding.

“I’m glad to hear about it because I do have family history of breast cancer. And with this helping, and this study coming out, just, it encourages more people to come in,” said Zepeda.

But doctors say, unlike in other states, the largest medical insurance company in Louisiana still does not pay for the surgery, and that’s in a state that ranks one of highest for obesity and one of the highest for cancer as well.

Another study in the Journal of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery found with obesity, there is a 12 percent risk of cancer, but it goes down to five percent with the weight loss surgery.

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