Despite weight loss recommendations to prevent cancer, cancer outcome studies after intentional weight loss are limited. Recently, reduced cancer mortality following bariatric surgery has been reported. This study tested whether reduced cancer mortality following gastric bypass was due to decreased incidence. Cancer incidence and mortality data through 2007 from the Utah Cancer Registry (UCR) were compared between 6,596 Utah patients who had gastric bypass (1984-2002) and 9,442 severely obese persons who had applied for Utah Driver's Licenses (1984-2002). Study outcomes included incidence, case-fatality, and mortality for cancer by site and stage at diagnosis of all gastric bypass patients, compared to nonoperated severely obese controls. Follow-up was over a 24-year period (mean 12.5 years). Total cancer incidence was significantly lower in the surgical group compared to controls (hazard ratio (HR) = 0.76; confidence interval (CI) 95%, 0.65-0.89; P = 0.0006). Lower incidence in surgery patients vs. controls was primarily due to decreased incidence of cancer diagnosed at regional or distant stages. Cancer mortality was 46% lower in the surgery group compared to controls (HR = 0.54; CI 95%, 0.37-0.78; P = 0.001). Although the apparent protective effect of surgery on risk of developing cancer was limited to cancers likely known to be obesity related, the inverse association for mortality was seen for all cancers. Significant reduction in total cancer mortality in gastric bypass patients compared with severely obese controls was associated with decreased incidence, primarily among subjects with advanced cancers. These findings suggest gastric bypass results in lower cancer risk, presumably related to weight loss, supporting recommendations for reducing weight to lower cancer risk.