Fat Mice, Liposuction, and Cancer

Abdominal fat and cancer risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) We tend to think of fat as surplus, storage for calories that we carry around until needed. As it turns out, some fat is quite productive, pumping out hormones or storing chemicals and vitamins.

Research in past years has shown that large amounts of fat in the waist is associated with more significant health problems such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension than the same amount of fat in other areas such as the thigh.

After a few years scientists determined that abdominal fat was involved in several important endocrine functions like hormone production, including sensations of hunger.

"Ask your oncologist about cancer nutrition."

One study by researchers at Rutgers investigated the cancer hypothesis, feeding mice a bulk diet until they became obese. The mice were then exposed to carcinogenic ultraviolet light

Mice that had belly liposuction immediately beforehand developed skin cancer 80 percent less than the normal group.  

More research needs to be done on the exact molecular controls involved in fat hormone production, but the evidence in humans does seem to support the idea that obese individuals carry a higher risk for the development of cancer.

Some researchers hypothesize the mechanism might be due to fat's ability to store some carcinogenic chemicals, resulting in an overall longer exposure.

Anecdotal evidence, embraced by many natural cancer cure type books, seems to support the idea that diets rich in vegetable matter and low in animal protein and associated fat help the immune system combat cancer.

That theory makes sense, but concrete evidence has been hard to come by.

For now, the science supports the hypothesis that the presence of large amounts of abdominal fat over a lifetime is the factor significant in developing cancer, and there is no evidence at all for using liposuction as a cancer treatment.

"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 concluded.

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

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 21, 2012.

Study authors declared no financial interests in the publication of their research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 23, 2012
Last Updated:
August 6, 2012