FDA Announces There Are Certain Cancers Associated With Breast Implants—Here's What A Doctor Has To Say

It's all too common these days to see women (even as young as teenagers) opt in for breast implants. But a recent report by the FDA shows that there may be certain cancers that are associated with implants.

By Gina Florio2 min read
woman breast cancer

It's estimated that 8 out of every 1,000 women in the U.S. have had some type of breast implant in their lifetime, and 60% of these procedures were done for cosmetic reasons. The average age for having this surgery is 34 years old. It's more common than ever to get breast implants, but recent research may deter you from opting in for the popular surgery.

FDA Announces There Are Certain Cancers Associated with Breast Implants—Here's What a Doctor Has to Say

On September 8, the FDA issued a report informing the public that certain types of cancers have been associated with breast implants. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is informing the public about reports of cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and various lymphomas, in the scar tissue (capsule) that forms around breast implants," the FDA wrote. "The FDA learned about these reports through our continual postmarket review of breast implants and our ongoing collaboration with external stakeholders."

Apparently, the FDA is aware of less than 20 cases of SCC and less than 30 cases of lymphomas found in the capsule around the breast implant. We interviewed a board-certified surgeon to shed some light on this recent development and tell women whether they should be worried about these numbers.

Kevin Brenner, MD, FACS, is a board-certified plastic surgeon and reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills, CA, and his specialty lies in the breast and abdomen. He tells us there have been "upwards of 950 cases of breast-implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), which is a rare type of lymphoma that develops within the scar capsule that surrounds breast implants."

But the recent FDA report brings to light "nearly 20 cases of a new entity: squamous cell carcinoma, which has been reported also in the breast capsule of some patients." Dr. Brenner says neither of these are actual breast cancers, but we're still learning about the behavior of these peri-prosthetic tumors.

"At this point, it is unclear what the exact etiology (origin) of these two types of peri-prosthetic cancers (BIA-ALCL and BIA-SCC) is," Dr. Brenner continues. "However, there is some speculation that they may have an infectious origin." For example, he says the "implant colonization of textured surfaced implants could incite a chronic inflammatory state resulting in development of these cancer subtypes."

Over the last 11 years, there have been nearly 1,000 cases of BIA-ALCL reported. This means the risk of approximately 1 out of every 30,000 patients with textured implants. Dr. Brenner adds that the risk in patients who have had Allergan Textured Biocell implants is "significantly higher," about 1 in every 3,000. But for BIA-SCC, "there have not been enough cases reported to truly understand the incidence."

If you have breast implants and you're asymptomatic, Dr. Brenner says there is no published data that shows removing the implants will reduce your risk of developing either of these cancers in the future.

"If, however, one does have a seroma or mass with cytology or pathology suspicious for cancer, the implants need to be removed along with the entire capsule," he tells us. "If anyone with breast implants is concerned about their risk, the best thing is to contact their plastic surgeon for more information. If that does not answer their questions, then they may call our office and we can try and help them sort it out."

If you are considering getting breast implants, make sure you go over all the risks with your doctor beforehand.