Can Breast Implants Cause Breast Cancer?

Breast Implants

Can Breast Implants Cause Breast Cancer?

Getting breast implants is quite the common procedure, yet certain sources have suggested a correlation between breast implants and breast cancer.

In light of such research, many women with implants have opted to remove them through a capsulectomy, and those considering implants have been forced to be more cautious.

With all the conflicting information out there, is it possible that breast implants can cause breast cancer, and if so, why are millions of women across the globe still opting for implants?

In this piece, we bring you all the information you need to know about breast implants, and breast cancer, so that you have the right information to help you decide whether or not to get implants.

Why the Link Between Breast Implants and Breast Cancer?

The short answer is that breast implants do NOT cause breast cancer. One in eight women (13%) develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime, however, it is not associated with the presence of breast implants.

The confusion stems from the recently discovered link between textured implants and anaplastic large-cell lymphoma – ALCL. ALCL is not breast cancer, but a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In the majority of cases, breast-implant associated ALCL is a local disease and the treatment involves removing the implant and capsule surrounding the implant.

Breast-implant associated ALCL is very rare, which is why it took many years to discover the association between textured implants and ALCL. Textured implants have been removed off the market in the US and Canada. To date, there have been no cases of ALCL reported with the sole use of a smooth implant.

Experts in both the medical and medical research fields, still do not have a clear explanation as to why textured breast implants were associated with ALCL, albeit a rare association. The textured surface of the implants is thought to harbor bacteria that leads to a chronic inflammation, increasing the chances of ALCL.

Textured implants were used because they were less likely to move or cause ripples to the skin. The surface of these implants is rough and filled with micropores, making them “stick” to surrounding tissue like velcro. The surface of smooth implants, like the name suggests, is smooth does not have micropores.  The reason why millions of women still get breast implants is because ALCL has not been reported with the sole use of smooth implants.

As such, experts have come to the conclusion that there is no evidence to suggest that breast implants increase the chances of breast cancer. There is also no association between smooth implants (only implants currently available in the market) and ALCL.

What Should you do if you Already Have Textured Implants?

If you already have textured implants, a discussion with your surgeon is the best starting point. Health Canada and the FDA do not recommend removing all textured implants because ALCL is rare. Your surgeon may suggest you keep an eye out for the potential signs and symptoms:

  • New and persistent swelling due to fluid buildup
  • Unusual breast tenderness and breast pain
  • A mass or lump in or near the breast or under the arm
  • A skin rash near the breast

Take-away points

  1. Breast implants are not associated with breast cancer
  2. Smooth implants (only available implants in the market) are safe and are not associated with ALCL
  3. ALCL is rare! Even if you have textured implants, Health Canada and the FDA do not recommend removing all textured implants. Have a discussion with your surgeon about the pros/cons of various options
  4. Keep the serial number pertaining to your implants, so that if there are recent discoveries you will be aware.