Breast Implants are Connected to Some Forms of Cancer, FDA Warns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning last week that breast implants may cause certain types of cancer. After extensive research that included fielding dozens of reports from people with the devices, they found certain cancers may develop in scar tissue forming around the implants.

The likelihood of cancer is rare, but there was enough cause for concern. Reports found that malignancies have been linked to all implant types, which include textured and smooth and those filled with saline or silicone. Reported symptoms include swelling, pain, lumps and changes in skin. 

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The agency had already linked a rare form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma to textured implants, which are known for having a rough exterior that can cause more inflammation than smooth implants. These types of implants made by the company Allergen, were recalled after nearly 600 cases of cancer were linked to the implants and 33 deaths were attributed. 

But the most recent FDA warning comes after linking implants to another rare cancer, called squamous cell carcinoma. While there are few known cases, given the popularity and history of implants the FDA felt a warning was warranted.

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This comes just one year after federal regulators required warnings to be placed on the packaging and to only sell implants to health providers who reviewed the potential risks with patients before surgery. Those risks included a direct link to a cancer of the immune system and a bevy of other chronic medical conditions like muscle aches, chronic fatigue and autoimmune diseases. 

The warning also included a list of patients that would be at a higher risk of illness if they were to receive the implants. The group included breast cancer patients who have had or plan to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatments. 

In an average year, 400,000 women in the United States get breast implants, with 300,000 doing it for cosmetic reasons and 100,000 for reconstructive purposes, likely after a mastectomy.  The FDA reports that roughly one-third of all women who receive implants will have some form of breast pain or sensitivity and half of all recipients will experience tightening of scar tissue around the implant. Sixty-percent will likely need another operation to resolve issues with the implant.

The most recent link has not created a widespread cause for concern in the medical community, and in their report the FDA said it did not recommend women remove their breast implants because of the new warning. But rather monitor their implants and speak with their health care provider should they have any concerns or abnormal changes with their implants. 

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