Rutgers Study: Surgical Removal of Abdominal Fat Reduces Skin Cancer in Mice

Rutgers Study: Surgical Removal of Abdominal Fat Reduces Skin Cancer in Mice

Studies needed to determine if fat removal procedures would decrease cancer risk in humans

Obesity and skin cancer

Removing fat prevents skin cancer in mice. Could it do the same for humans?

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Is it possible that liposuction or other fat removal
procedures are beneficial for treating obesity and reducing the risk of cancer?

When it comes to humans, scientists can’t answer that
question. They know that obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes
and cancer.  But there have not been
clinical studies to determine if the surgical removal of fat tissue would
decrease cancer risk in humans.

In animal studies,
however, Rutgers scientists, who have published new research online in
the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have found that surgical removal of abdominal fat from mice
fed a high-fat diet reduces the risk of ultraviolet-light induced skin cancer –
the most prevalent cancer in the United States with more than 2 million new
cases each year.

“We don’t know what effect fat removal would have in humans,”
said Allan Conney, professor of pharmacology and director of the Susan Lehman
Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research
at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy.
“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.”

For more than a decade, Conney and his colleague Yao-Ping Lu
have been studying how caffeine and exercise, which also decrease tissue fat,
work to block UV-induced skin cancer. Despite the multiple human
epidemiological studies that link coffee intake to a decrease in nonmelanoma
skin cancer risk, just how and why coffee protects against the disease is still

In this new skin cancer study, Rutgers researchers found
that surgical removal of abdominal fat from obese mice fed a high-fat diet had
between 75-80 percent fewer UV-induced skin cancers than mice that did not
undergo fat-removal surgery.

Although scientists
understand that tissue fat may play a role in tumor formation, there has been little
research on the molecular mechanisms of how a high-fat diet increases the
formation of skin cancer.  This new study
suggests that abdominal fat in mice secretes proteins
that enhance the risk of cancer.  Once the
original fat tissue is removed, the biochemical properties of new fat tissue
that appear after surgery are less harmful. 

 While it is well known that decreased calorie-intake,
low-fat diets and physical exercise are
recommended for treating obesity, preventing cancer by surgically removing
tissue fat still needs to be explored.

“It would be
interesting to see if surgical removal of fat tissue in animals would prevent
obesity-associated lethal cancers like those of the pancreas, colon and
prostate,” Conney said. “Whether removal of tissue fat in humans which has
certain risks would decrease the risk of life-threatening cancers in humans
is not known.”


Media Contact: Robin Lally
732-932-7084, ext. 652