Do Breast Implants Increase the Risk of Cancer?

 In Breast, Breast augmentation

One of the biggest concerns for women considering breast implants is whether they increase the risk of developing breast cancer. It is a legitimate concern and one that we often discuss at length with all our patients prior to surgery.

As with any type of cosmetic surgery, it is important to know the facts before making a decision and to be fully aware of the potential risks as well as considering the benefits of the procedure you’re considering.

Because October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, we are communicating the facts about breast implants and breast cancer, so that people considering breast augmentation surgery can feel more reassured.

An increased risk of lymphoma

Recent reports suggest that women with breast implants have an increased risk of developing a rare type of cancer known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). However, it is not breast cancer and the risk is very small – believed to be one to three cases for every million women who have implants, according to a recent study from the Netherlands.

The US Food and Drink Administration reported in March 2017 that breast implants have been shown to increase the risk ALCL which is a cancer of the immune system cells. The cancer typically occurs in the scar tissue around the implant rather than in the breast tissue itself. It is treatable if detected early by removal of the implant and the surrounding capsule.

Between June 2010 and February 1 2017, there were 350 reports of cancer linked to breast implants made to the FDA and nine of the women involved died.  In the US each year, around one in 500,000 women is diagnosed with ALCL. The FDA has concluded that women with breast implants have a very low, but increased risk of developing ALCL compared to women who don’t have breast implants.

What causes ALCL?

Why ALCL occurs following breast implants is not completely clear but studies indicate that it may be due to chronic inflammation, which is linked to many different types of cancer. Markers of chronic inflammation in the scar tissue around implants found by some researchers suggest that ALCL may be triggered by the response of the immune system to the implants.

The bacteria that colonise the area around the implant may trigger the body’s immune system leading to an increased risk of cancer. Bacteria samples from people with ALCL who had implants have been found to differ from samples taken from people with implants who did not have ALCL.

Increased risk of ALCL

Women who chose to have implants with a textured rather than a smooth surface appear to be at greater risk of developing ALCL. The FDA received 231 reports of women developing ALCL that included information about the surface of the implant.

Two hundred and three of these cases involved textured implants compared to just 28 smooth implants. Scientists are unclear why this should be but the FDA advised talking through with a cosmetic surgeon the relative benefits of smooth versus textured implants.

Risk of later stage diagnosis

The incidence of breast cancer in the UK has been increasing and the most recent figures suggest that one in seven women will develop breast cancer. There has been no association between breast implants and breast cancer. In fact most of the studies have shown that women with breast implants have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.

This is thought to be due to the fact that they have less breast tissue. Some studies have suggested that having an implant, can make the detection of breast cancer more difficult. Mr Jallali recommends an MRI instead of a mammogram for most of his patients.

Mr Jallali will discuss the above issues in more detail during your consultation and please remember to write down any questions prior to your appointment.