Breast implants are linked to several cancers, FDA warns

The cancer types include squamous cell carcinoma and various lymphomas.
Mert Erdemir
A surgeon holding a silicone implant.
A surgeon holding a silicone implant.

Mailson Pignata/iStock 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned on September 8 that people with breast implants filled with silicone or saline could raise the possibility of specific cancer types such as squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and various lymphomas in the scar tissue around implants.

The FDA has confirmed that it had received ten reports of SCC, and 12 reports of the different types of lymphoma. Less than 50 cases of SCC and different lymphomas were found in the scar tissue around the implant, according to a literature review by the agency.

Reported symptoms from patients include swelling, pain, lumps, or changes in the skin. According to the FDA report, there is no need to get your implants checked or removed if you don't have any of these symptoms.

“Breast implants are not meant to be lifetime devices."

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the immune system and scientists had already linked an unusual cancer type called anaplastic large cell lymphoma primarily to textured implants, the surface of which is more likely to cause inflammation than those of smooth implants.

Moreover, the possibility of health risks increases in proportion to how old the implants are.

“Breast implants are not meant to be lifetime devices. They have a lifespan, and that might range from seven to 10-plus years, based on the implant and patient,” Dr. Tommaso Addona, a plastic surgeon and president of the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group in New York, told CNN in 2019.

Even though lymphomas and other cancers around the implant seem to be rare, “health care providers and people who have or are considering breast implants should be aware that cases have been reported to the FDA and in the literature,” the FDA report said.

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For now, the FDA recommends persons with breast implants get frequent checkups five to six years after the initial implantation and then again every two or three years after that in order to make sure the prosthetics are in good condition.

According to a study, however, less than six percent of patients actually do this. To fix this, the FDA suggested in 2020 that manufacturers include a boxed warning to inform patients that breast implants are not meant to be long-lasting medical equipment. This recommendation, however, is not legally binding, and it's not clear how successful it has been.

Officials from the FDA say they will keep collaborating with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to gather more data on specific implant cases where cancer has been reported.

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