Do Breast Implants Cause Cancer?

Recently the FDA announced a possible link between breast implants and a rare form of lymphoma called ALCL. You can find this information at:

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm239996.htm

ALCL, a cancer of the immune system, may possibly develop in the tissue around a breast implant. Although there has been a great deal of discussion concerning this topic, my thoughts as to the bottom line on this issue are as follows:

1. We are talking about something which has been seen in only 60 women out of the 10 million women who have breast implants. This is less than the chance of being struck by lightning. Women who do not have breast implants can also develop ALCL.

2. ALCL is not breast cancer – it is a cancer of the immune system which develops in the tissue which surrounds the implant.

3. It is unclear as to whether what is developing around the implants is ALCL or something which looks like ALCL under the microscope. To lend support to the contention that this is a more benign disease than ALCL is the fact than none of these 60 women who have been found to have this condition have died from the disease.

4. If a woman with implants develops breast swelling or pain years after breast augmentation, she should promptly follow up with a plastic surgeon.

I hope that this gives a proper perspective to the our current state of understanding of the situation. I will continue to monitor the evidence carefully and keep you informed.

George Sanders, MD

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