Cutting Out Belly Fat Prevents Skin Cancer in Mice


John Gever, Senior Editor, MedPage Today

Surgical removal of abdominal fat pads in mice prevented them from developing ultraviolet radiation-induced skin cancers, researchers said.

The researchers, led by Allan Conney, PhD, of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., called for an immediate epidemiology study in humans to determine whether skin cancer rates are lower in people who have undergone liposuction.

Their study, published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and conducted in mice fed a high-fat diet, found that abdominal lipectomy reduced tumor numbers and volume by some 75% when the animals were exposed twice a week to high-energy ultraviolet light for 33 weeks.

In contrast, no effect on skin cancer rates was seen in mice fed a low-fat diet and subjected to lipectomy.

Conney stressed in a press release that it remains unclear whether liposuction, conventional weight loss, or other methods of eliminating body fat would affect human skin cancer risk. “”We don’t know what effect fat removal would have in humans,” he said.

His previous research has focused on the mechanisms underlying the observed reductions in skin cancer risk associated with caffeine and exercise. Since both of these reduce tissue fat, he and his colleagues examined whether direct removal of body fat would affect skin cancer in mice.

The experiments included sham-operated control mice, with which the lipectomized mice were compared.

The current study showed that, not only was tumor formation lower in the fat-fed mice after lipectomy, but so were markers of cell proliferation. Apoptosis also appeared to be enhanced within the tumors that did form in the lipectomized mice.

In addition, expression of adipokines including TIMP1, MCP1, and SerpinE1 was inhibited with the fat removal.

Other experiments indicated that these proteins were present in tumors but not in normal skin, suggesting a role in carcinogenesis, the researchers indicated.

“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.

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