Removing abdominal fat via liposuction may have a surprising benefit – it may help lower risk of ultraviolet (UV)-light induced skin cancer, according to research in mice out of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.

According to the new report, surgical removal of abdominal fat from obese mice fed a high-fat diet resulted in 75% to 80% fewer UV-induced skin cancers when compared with mice that did not undergo fat-removal surgery.

The findings appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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, the researchers speculate.

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