Women who undergo liposuction -- the increasingly popular practice of suctioning fat from the hips, thighs and stomach -- may end up with bigger breasts.

This surprising finding was made by two Ohio State University researchers, who reported at the annual meeting of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery recently that half of their female liposuction patients had measurably bigger busts after treatment.

Of 30 patients studied, 16 reported larger breasts and five jumped a full cup size. Among the 16 women who had the most fat removed -- more than a liter -- 12 reported bigger breasts.

The two researchers, Dwight Scarborough and Emil Bisaccia, stress that their findings are only preliminary and the phenomenon is not yet understood. But according to Scarborough, it may be the body's way of compensating for lost reserves of fat.

"There may be a metabolic shift of sorts that deflects fatty lipids to different areas of the body" after fat is removed in liposuction, he said.

None of the male patients treated by the two doctors reported any unusual bodily growth.

The researchers said they hope to learn why some women's breasts grow after liposuction and how to predict who will encounter the side effect.

They are beginning a prospective study in which breast sizes are measured before and after liposuction treatments.

"This is something we have to look at closely over the long range," said Scarborough, who called the results "unexpected" and "eye opening."