Is there any connection between breast implants and cancer? And if so, how serious is the risk?

Answers from Sandhya Pruthi, M.D.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified a possible association between breast implants and the development of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a very rare cancer of the immune system. The FDA believes that women with breast implants may have a very low but increased risk of developing ALCL. However, further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between ALCL and breast implants.

ALCL can develop in various parts of the body, including the lymph nodes and skin. Rarely, it can develop in the breast. According to the National Cancer Institute, ALCL is diagnosed in about 1 out of 500,000 women a year in the United States — and ALCL in the breast is diagnosed in only 3 in 100 million women a year in the United States.

Researchers haven't yet determined whether the surface texture of an implant could affect the risk of ALCL in the breast, or whether the association is higher depending on the type of implant — saline or silicone.

Any association between breast implants and cancer is concerning. Still, it's important to keep the potential risk in perspective.

If you have breast implants, the new findings aren't a call to change your treatment plan or to have your breast implants removed. Remember, the possibility of ALCL is very remote. While research continues, visit your doctor for routine medical care, and report any signs or symptoms — such as swelling, lumps or pain — promptly.

If you're considering breast implants, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor and together decide what is best for you.

June 26, 2015