A new study has found that bariatric (weight-loss) surgery significantly reduces the pancreatic cancer risk in people with obesity and diabetes.

Researchers looked at 20 years of data from more than 1 million people, including over 10,000 who had undergone bariatric surgery. Nearly 75% of those who had undergone weight-loss surgery were women.

The researchers found that people who underwent weight-loss surgery were less likely to develop pancreatic cancer when compared with those who did not undergo the surgery.

The study findings were supposed to be presented Monday in a virtual meeting at the United European Gastroenterology.

Study author Dr. Aslam Syed of Allegheny Health Network, Pittsburgh, said, “Obesity and diabetes are well-known risk factors for pancreatic cancer via chronic inflammation, excess hormones and growth factors released by body fat.”

“Previously, bariatric surgery has been shown to improve high blood sugar levels in diabetic patients,” he explained, “and our research shows that this surgery is a viable way in reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer in this growing, at-risk group.”

The study investigators said the findings have particularly been timely as the incidence of obesity, diabetes and pancreatic cancer is on the rise.

It is imperative to prevent pancreatic cancer because patients having the condition have a poor prognosis and survival rate, according to Dr. Syed.

He said, “The average survival time at diagnosis is particularly bleak for this silent killer, at just 4.6 months, with patients losing 98% of their healthy life expectancy. Only 3% of patients survive more than five years.”

Dr. Syed said that doctors should consider bariatric surgery in patients with metabolic disorders in order to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Often known as a silent killer, pancreatic cancer goes undiagnosed because its symptoms are hard to identify. The symptoms include pain in the stomach or back, jaundice, and unexplained weight loss. If left untreated, pancreatic cancer could lead to death. The article originally appeared on Medicine Net.