Gastric Banding Can Beat Diabetes. Cancer Too?

On-going research continues to confirm that weight loss surgery can reverse Type 2 (adult onset, obesity related) diabetes. A recent study conducted at NYU medical center of approximately 100 Type 2 diabetics who underwent gastric banding showed almost half had a return of normal glucose levels without needing anti-diabetic medication and the other half were able to significantly reduce the amount of medication they needed to control diabetes. The dramatic reduction in medication requirement in these post-operative diabetics was mirrored by substantial reductions in their weight.

In a separate study conducted in Sweden, researchers compared the occurrence of cancer in obese men and women who underwent gastric surgery for weight loss versus a similar group treated with diet alone. As expected the surgery group lost considerably more weight than the group treated with diet only. After 4 years it was found that women who underwent weight loss surgery had significantly lower incidence of cancer than the diet only group. There was no similar benefit in the men.

Obese women are known to have an increased risk of certain cancers compared to normal weight women. In particular, uterine and breast cancer are more commen in overweight women. Adipose tissue (fat cells) increases estrogen levels in the blood by converting other naturally occuring hormones to estrogen. It is thought that the excess estrogen is responsible for the increased cancer risk in obese women. In the Swedish study of women after gastric weight loss surgery, the reduction in cancer was most obvious for skin and blood cell cancers. This is not what would be expected if the cancer prevention was due to weight loss effects on lowering estrogen. The reason for the cancer reduction after gastric surgery in obese women is still under investigation.

Gary Pepper, M.D. , Editor-in-Chief,

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