Bariatric surgery may be an important new tool in helping prevent endometrial cancer. Researchers at the University of California San Diego have found that women who undergo bariatric surgery to lose weight may have up to a 70% lower risk of uterine cancer. The findings from the study, which were presented on March 22nd at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer in Tampa, Florida, suggest that obesity may be a modifiable risk factor related to the development of endometrial cancer.

“I was surprised by the magnitude of the findings,” said lead study author Kristy Ward, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center, in San Diego, CA. “This is the first study to show this for uterine cancer.”

Dr. Ward and her team conducted an observational study that examined 7,431,858 hospital admission records. All patients included in the study were admitted between January 1, 2009 and June 1, 2013, and the mean age was 52.6 years. Among the patients admitted to hospitals, 103,797 (1.4%) had a history of bariatric surgery and 44,345 patients (0.6%) had a diagnosis of uterine malignancy.

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Among the 103,797 patients who had previously had bariatric surgery, 424 patients (0.4%) were diagnosed with uterine cancer. Of the 832,372 patients who were considered obese and had not previously undergone bariatric surgery, the researchers found that 11,729 patients (1.4%) were diagnosed with uterine cancer. The findings suggested that obese women who had bariatric surgery were less likely to get uterine cancer—by 3.5-fold—compared with women who had not had the surgery. Dr. Ward, who presented the study findings at the meeting, said the benefit of bariatric surgery was even more pronounced among women who were able to keep their weight off. She said just having bariatric surgery appeared to reduce the risk of developing uterine cancer by 71%, and the risk reduction increased to 81% in women who had bariatric surgery and maintained a normal weight.

“Oncologists should care about this study because quite a few cancers are obesity-related and, with the current obesity epidemic, we would expect to see a rise in cancers. Uterine cancer is the most associated with obesity,” Dr. Ward said in an interview with “By its nature, the study is observational, so we can’t make conclusions. It is hypothesis-driving, but there are observational data that support this, so now we need more targeted studies or we need to start to plan clinical trials to look at causality for this.”