Alabama Bariatrics & Minimally Invasive Surgery

Bariatric Diet Orbera Gastric Band Sleeve Gastrectomy Gastric Bypass

W. Jay Suggs, MD, FACS, FASMBS
Huntsville & Decatur
Phone: (256) 274-4523
Fax: (256) 203-8791

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Contact Us

W. Jay Suggs, MD, FACS, FASMBS
Huntsville & Decatur
Phone: (256) 274-4523
Fax: (256) 203-8791
EMail: drsuggs@alabariatrics.com

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Can Weight-Loss Surgery Prevent Melanoma?

There are a plethora of diseases and comorbidities that weight loss surgeons in Huntsville, AL and the rest of the world have connected to obesity. Some of these are more obvious, such as an increased chance of a heart attack or type 2 diabetes. Some of them are not so easy to pinpoint such as stroke, sleep apnea, or gallbladder disease.  However, one of the weirdest connections to date with obesity is melanoma. 

Isn't melanoma skin cancer? Isn't it the sort of thing that only happens outside the body? How can those two things be possibly connected? Let's find out. 

The Nature of Melanoma

mature-female-doctor-checking-the-body-of-a-LHXSC3AFirst, we need to distinguish if you can get melanoma from the inside. A lot of times we associate it with getting it from sitting out in the sun too long.  However, this barely scratches the surface on just what melanoma is.

The kind that we are familiar with is called superficial spreading melanoma. It's superficial because it literally starts out skin deep (pun intended). While it can spread outward on surface levels there is a chance that it can spread downward into deeper tissue.

However, that is just the most common form of melanoma. There are other types of melanoma that can come from the inside. Sometimes it has a higher chance of access because it starts under someone's fingernails or inside their eye. 

Also 5-10% of melanoma cases are found without any outward indication of a sign. Doctors have hypothesized that they came from types of melanoma that were either not removed completely by mistake. Either that or it is was a "regressed" form of melanoma. That is when your body’s immune system may have destroyed a portion of the cancerous cells in a skin melanoma but not before some melanoma cells were able to get into lymph nodes or blood vessels.  But we still don’t know. 

So, if there are types of melanoma that can come from the inside of the body, or on patches of skin where normally the sun does not reach, how does that connect to obesity? Who first observed the possibility of a connection and what does it mean?

The Study that Claimed the Connection

Dr Magdalena Taube from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and her collegues recently did a follow up of a study regarding Swedish Obese Subjects or SOS.  The first study was in regards to the connection between breast cancer and obesity. That first report states that women who underwent weight loss surgery had less of a risk of certain types of cancers. 

They created a follow up study regarding the possibility for a decreased risk of melanoma with the same group of participants they had before. They made the statement, "[Our] 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."

When someone is obese, there is a greater chance of inflammation, which causes or adds more difficulty with various chronic conditions. And cancer is a chronic condition. So, it makes some level of sense to draw the first conclusion.

Correlation does not Mean Causation

While they are certainly careful in their language, there are still some things that need addressing. According to critics in the same field, other factors such as sun exposure, more access to medical care, hair color, and eye color were not considered at the same time as the obesity as a variable. Also, the team did not choose random subjects.  This can create an unintentional bias on the end of the team doing the study. 

This creates enough of a suspicion for melanoma expert, Dr. Jeffrey Weber, from the NYU Langone Medical Center, ""This seems highly unlikely, since there are over 1,000,000 skin cancers that we diagnose yearly in the US and about 100,000 of them being melanoma."

So, until there is more of an observable cause and effect, it is all at best speculation.  

Conclusion

While we are always finding connections between obesity, and other conditions, weight loss surgery isn't the answer for everything. While our bodies are a complex series of interconnected systems, there are some things that just don't relate to one another. 

The lesson to learn here is to look at weight loss surgery for what it is. A tool that can help manage conditions that are related to obesity. 

If you are looking for weight loss surgery in Huntsville, Al visit www.alabariatrics.com.