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Does Bariatric Surgery Lower Skin Cancer Risk?

Bariatric surgery appears to lower the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, among patients with obesity, according to the findings of a recent study.

“Obesity is a cancer risk factor, and bariatric surgery in patients with obesity is associated with reduced cancer risk,” the researchers said. “However, evidence of an association among obesity, bariatric surgery, and skin cancer, including melanoma, is limited.”

They conducted a nonrandomized controlled trial to investigate this association. In the ongoing study, patients at 25 surgical departments and 480 primary health care centers in Sweden were enrolled between September 1, 1987 and January 31, 2001. A total of 2007 participants with obesity who underwent surgery and 2040 contemporaneously matched controls who received conventional obesity treatment were included in the study. Participants in the surgery group underwent gastric bypass (n=266), banding (n=376), or vertical banded gastroplasty (n=1365).
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Data was linked to the Swedish National Cancer Registry, the Cause of Death Registry, and the Registry of the Total Population for cancer incidence, death, and emigration.

Of the 4047 total participants, information on cancer events were available for 4042.

Bariatric surgery was associated with a markedly reduced risk of melanoma (adjusted subharzard ratio 0.43; 95% CI, 0.21-0.87; median follow-up 18.1 years) and risk of skin cancer in general (adjusted subhazard ratio 0.59; 95% CI, 0.35-0.99).

In addition, skin cancer risk reduction was not associated with baseline body mass index or weight, the researchers said. It was also not associated with baseline insulin, glucose, lipid, and creatine levels, or diabetes, blood pressure, alcohol intake, or smoking, they added.

“The findings suggest that bariatric surgery is associated with a reduction in the incidence of skin cancer, including melanoma, in patients with obesity and that there may be an association between obesity and this cancer form,” the researchers concluded.


Taube M, Peltonen M, Sjöholm K, et al. Association of bariatric surgery with skin cancer incidence in adults with obesity: A nonrandomized controlled trial [published online October 30, 2019]. JAMA Dermatol. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.3240

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