Cancer Risk After Bariatric Surgery in a Cohort Study from the Five Nordic Countries

Obes Surg. 2020 Oct;30(10):3761-3767. doi: 10.1007/s11695-020-04751-6. Epub 2020 Jun 13.


Purpose: Obesity increases the risk of several cancers, but the influence of bariatric surgery on the risk of individual obesity-related cancers is unclear. This study aimed to assess the impact of bariatric surgery on cancer risk in a multi-national setting.

Materials and methods: This cohort study included all adults with an obesity diagnosis identified from national patient registries in all Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) from 1980 to 2012. Cancer risk in bariatric surgery patients was compared with non-operated patients with obesity. Multivariable Cox regression provided adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Age, sex, calendar year, country, length of follow-up, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and alcohol-related diseases were evaluated as confounders.

Results: Among 482,572 participants with obesity, 49,096 underwent bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery was followed by a decreased overall cancer risk in women (HR 0.86, 95% CI 0.80-0.92), but not in men (HR 0.98, 95% CI 0.95-1.01). The risk reduction was observed only within the first five post-operative years. Among specific tumours, HRs decreased for breast cancer (HR 0.81, 95% CI 0.69-0.95), endometrial cancer (HR 0.69, 95% CI 0.56-0.84) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (HR 0.64, 95% CI 0.42-0.97) in female bariatric surgery patients, while the risk of kidney cancer increased in both sexes (HR 1.44, 95% CI 1.13-1.84).

Conclusion: Bariatric surgery may decrease overall cancer risk in women within the first five years after surgery. This decrease may be explained by a decreased risk of breast and endometrial cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in women.

Keywords: Metabolic surgery; Neoplasm; Obesity; Registries; Scandinavian and Nordic countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bariatric Surgery* / adverse effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Iceland
  • Male
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Morbid* / surgery
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Sweden