Millions of women undergo pursue breast implants each year enhance their figure or correct asymmetrical breasts, and many choose silicone implants to achieve a natural, contoured appearance. However, recent research shows that there may be a link between silicone implants and the risk of developing breast cancer.
Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam published their findings in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study monitored several cases of lymphoma in the breasts for patients diagnosed between 1990 and 2006, and showed that women with silicone breast implants were 18 times more likely to develop anaplastic large T-cell lymphoma (ALCL) than those who did not have implants.
The researchers declared the odds of developing cancer with silicone implants were 18.2, and the absolute risk of developing breast cancer after breast implants was 0.1 - 0.3.
Breast implants were first heavily marketed in the early 1960s, but the Medical Device Amendments to Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1976 required that the implants be proven safe and effective before being made available to the consumers. Since then, hundreds of studies have been conducted to determine the safety of both silicone and saline implants, but long-term effects have not been tracked extensively in the last 30-40 years. The National Cancer Institute explains that:
"A number of previous studies have evaluated the relationship between breast implants and subsequent breast cancer risk...However, the vast majority did not have enough detailed information on patient characteristics that could affect the development of breast cancer, and had follow-up times of less than 10 years. Some clinical studies have suggested that women with breast implants have more advanced breast cancer at diagnosis than women without breast implants." (Source: Cancer.gov Silicone Fact Sheet)
Researchers from the November 2008 study point out that the higher risk may be linked to the immune system's response to the implants, and how the implants affect the surrounding breast tissue in the long-term. The results are still being investigated, and provide a basis for understanding the potential risks involved with silicone breast implants.