Skip to main content

31-05-2012 | Article

Surgical fat removal reduces skin cancer in mice


Free full text [pdf]

MedWire News: Results from a study conducted in mice fed a high-fat diet show that the surgical removal of abdominal fat was associated with a reduced risk for skin cancer in the animals.

However, lead researcher Dr Allan Conney (State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, USA) and team stress that it is not yet known whether the same effect occurs in humans.

"We would like to encourage epidemiologists to study whether there is a lower incidence of sunlight-induced skin cancer in people who have had liposuction surgery to remove fat tissue," said Dr Conney in a press statement.

Skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun is the most common type of cancer in the USA, with around 2 million new cases each year. And previous studies have shown that obesity is associated with an increased risk for cancer and other conditions.

For the current study, Dr Conney and team studied mice that had been fed a high- or low-fat diet and exposed to ultraviolet radiation - the cancer-causing constituent of sunlight - for 33 weeks.

The researchers found that mice on the high-fat diet that underwent surgery to remove abdominal fat were 76-79% less likely to develop skin cancer than those on the high-fat diet that did not undergo fat-removal surgery.

Furthermore, mice on the high-fat diet that underwent fat-removal surgery and still developed skin cancer had smaller tumors than those that did not undergo fat-removal surgery.

The reduction in skin cancer risk associated with fat-removal surgery only occurred in mice fed the high-fat diet, and not in those fed the low-fat diet.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that abdominal fat may produce proteins that increase the risk for skin cancer, and that when this fat is removed, the subsequent risk for skin cancer falls.

"This is a unique demonstration that surgical removal of tissue fat can inhibit carcinogenesis [cancer development] in obese mice," concludes the team.

"Whether removal of tissue fat in humans, which has certain risks, would decrease the risk of life-threatening cancers in humans is not known," added Dr Conney.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Mark Cowen