Clinical Corner - August 2023

Currently there is an explosion of data that associates body weight to a variety of cancers. Although clinicians and epidemiologists have used the Body Mass Index (BMI = weight in kilograms/height in meters2) as an indicator of ideal weight and obesity, recent discussions support that BMI is insufficient to fully indicate levels of obesity.

What has been universally agreed upon is that achieving an ideal body weight will help to reduce the incidence of many types of malignancy. Bariatric (weight loss) surgery for obesity may also significantly lower the risk for breast, colon, liver, pancreatic, ovarian and thyroid cancer. These operations include sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass and gastric band procedures. There is growing evidence that the significant weight loss associated with bariatric surgery may also have a protective effect against the formation of obesity-related cancers as well.

Recent studies have shown that the cumulative incidence of obesity-related cancer at 10 years was 4% in a bariatric surgery group and 8.9% in the nonsurgical control group. These studies also showed that the bariatric surgery group had lower numbers of new cases for all types of obesity-related cancer, including breast, colon, liver, pancreatic, ovarian and thyroid tumors. Data such as these indicate that obesity status and weight loss procedures are important data points that deserve collection in our cancer registries.