Health & Fitness

Breast implants linked to cancer

Cancer which forms around the implant is typically  slow-growing. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Cancer which forms around the implant is typically slow-growing. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Women with breast implants are at risk of getting cancer, a new study has shown. More women with implants are increasingly being diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma and doctors may be missing the signs, according to a research published in Jama Oncology, a medical journal.

Daphne de Jong, a pathologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and one of the authors told the Business Daily in an e-mail interview that textured implants or those with rough surfaces pose a higher cancer risk compared to smooth ones.

‘‘We and others have also found lymphoma (cancer) associated with microtextured breast implants. Smooth implants are still somewhat under debate, but likely these bear the least risk. However, it should be noted that market shares and use of implant types have varied over the years and therefore we cannot make strong conclusions on specific risks for lymphoma with specific types,’’ she said.

The researchers who studied women aged between 24 to 68 years said, although the risks are minimal, someone considering putting silicone breast implants for cosmetic reasons or after mastectomy should be warned about the risks and symptoms of cancer.



The cancer which forms around the implant is typically slow-growing and can develop even 14 years after the surgery.

Cosmetic surgery has become popular in Kenya as more people with disposable income enhance their looks with implants and fillers.

Surgeons are battling for the growing market, offering reconstruction procedures such as tummy tucks, thighs, neck, cheeks and nose reshaping.

Breast enhancement and butt lifts, for instance, cost about Sh550,000 each. Although an increased risk of anaplastic large-cell lymphoma in patients with breast prostheses has been speculated, no studies had been conducted.

However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported a link between implants and the disease in 2011, and warnings were added on the product labels.

Since the introduction of breast implants in the 1960s, their safety has sparked debate globally. Silicone-gel implants were temporarily banned between 1992 and 2006 by the FDA.

Total ban

Saline-filled and silicone-covered implants stayed on the market, but several women reported ruptures, change of shape and hardening of the breast.

In Europe, the national health inspectorates are currently re-discussing the risks and doctors are waiting for recommendations as well as FDA’s reaction, Dr Jong said.

Does the cancer risk mean that the breast implants should be banned? Dr Jong adds that for now the most important thing is that women who consider breast implants, and they generally do this for good reasons, should be aware of the risk and the alternatives for breast reconstruction and augmentation so that they can make a well-informed choice.

According to Prof Ronald Wasike, a consultant breast surgeon at Aga Khan University Hospital who is combining cosmetic surgery with breast conservation in women with cancer, other options to implants include creating volume or fullness by using a tissue flap or filling the breast with fat.

Lymphoma symptoms include fluid build-up around the implant and lumpy swellings in the breast and the armpit. In some cases, the lump is not cancerous and may be a hematoma, which is a blood-filled swelling.