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 rare cancer of the immune system. The FDA believes that women with breast implants that have textured surfaces have an extremely low but increased risk of developing breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). However, that doesn't mean that these implants cause BIA-ALCL. Further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between the condition and breast implants.
ALCL is a rare cancer that can develop in any part of the body, most commonly the lymph nodes and skin. Research suggests that BIA-ALCL is usually found near the breast implant within the surrounding scar tissue, not the breast itself. A recent review of documented cases of BIA-ALCL in the United States from 1996 to 2015 determined that the incidence of BIA-ALCL was two per 1 million women with a textured breast implant.
Researchers haven't yet determined whether the type of implant — saline or silicone — affects the risk of developing BIA-ALCL.
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 BIA-ALCL is very remote and the cure rate of this rare malignancy is high — roughly 90 percent. While research continues, visit your doctor for routine medical care, and report any signs or symptoms — such as new breast swelling, lumps, pain or changes in breast shape — 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.
April 18, 2017
See more Expert Answers
- Questions and answers about breast-implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm241086.htm. Accessed April 14, 2017.
- Ye X, et al. Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) and breast implants: Breaking down the evidence. Mutation Research. 2014;762:123.
- Doren EL, et al. United States epidemiology of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. In press. Accessed April 14, 2017.