Breast implants and cancer: Any connection?
Is there any connection between breast implants and cancer? And if so, how serious is the risk?
from Sandhya Pruthi, M.D.
A recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review found a possible association between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) — a rare cancer of the immune system.

However, this connection between breast implants and cancer isn’t well defined or clearly supported.
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.

The FDA reports about 60 cases of ALCL among the millions of women worldwide who have breast implants. The recent review identified 34 cases, and more than 20 additional cases were reported to the FDA by various outside groups. The true number of cases is difficult to pinpoint, however, and may be less than 60 worldwide.

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. The number of women in the general population who have ALCL is quite low, and the number is even lower among women who have breast implants.

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 remote.

Continue to consult 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, work with your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits