Cancer Bellianus

Reducing the Risk of Cancers Associated with Obesity

Cancer might not be top of mind when most people think about the complications of obesity. But at least 13 different cancers have a clear association with obesity. A new study published Friday in JAMA Network Open examines the risk of these cancers in patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity. The primary objective was to compare the risk of cancers associated with obesity in patients treated with GLP-1 medicines versus those treated with insulin or metformin.

For 10 of the 13 cancers researchers found a significantly reduced risk in patients treated with a GLP-1 agonist. The risk reduction ranged from 65% for gallbladder cancer to 25% for kidney cancer. For stomach cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer, and thyroid cancer they found no significant reduction in risk.

Observational Research

Of course, this observational research can only tell us about the relative risk associated with GLP-1 medicines and insulin or metformin. So to say that GLP-1s are reducing these risks is not appropriate. It merely points us to that possibility.

Gilberto Lopes is the chief medical oncologist for the University of Miami Comprehensive Cancer Center. He was not involved with this study, but says that the implications are important because obesity might be an important modifiable risk factor for many times of cancer. Though further research to prove this will take time, he says we should pay attention to these findings:

“I’m hoping that studies like this – even though they’re not prospective controlled clinical trials –will help inform decision-makers that it does make sense to actually use these drugs, not just for decreasing glucose levels, but also to prevent complications. Not just in the cardiovascular realm, as we already knew, but especially in cancer as well.”

Watch this space. Obesity is a chronic disease which leads to quite a number of other serious disease when left untreated. We are learning that highly effective treatment leads to reductions in cardiovascular, sleep, kidney, and liver problems. These findings complement other research that suggests a reduction in cancer risk following metabolic surgery.

Soon we may need to add cancer to the list of diseases that obesity treatment can prevent.

Click here for the study in JAMA Network Open, here and here for further perspective.

Cancer Bellianus, photograph by Jebulon / Wikimedia Commons

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July 8, 2024