Silicone-Filled Breast Implants Study: No Link to Cancer


Marianne Campolongo, Staff Writer

Marianne A. Campolongo is an experienced writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines and on websites. The topics she has written about include health, parenting, lifestyles, travel, food, and dieting. She has also photographed magazine covers, including personalities such as Hillary Clinton and former CBS co-anchor René Syler. She holds a law degree from Fordham University School of Law.

November 29 2007

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Silicone-filled breast implants do not increase a woman's risk of breast or other types of cancers, according to researchers at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, TN. They came to this conclusion after an in-depth review of numerous large-scale, long-term studies on the safety and risks of silicone breast implants from around the world.

"Few implantable medical devices have been investigated for safety hazards more extensively than silicone gel-filled breast implants," said Joseph McLaughlin, PhD, cancer epidemiologist and Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who led the analysis. "For almost three decades, researchers around the world have been conducting in-depth studies on the health of women with implants to determine if there are significant health risks. The evidence is clear that implants are not linked to serious disease."

An Overview of Breast Implant Risk Findings
According to their findings, published in the November 2007 issue of Annals of Plastic Surgery, women who receive silicone gel implants:

  • Do not have a higher risk of breast cancer
  • Do not have a higher overall risk of other cancers
  • Do not experience lower survival rates after breast cancer diagnosis

Besides reviewing cancer risks, the researchers reviewed numerous studies that looked at other breast implant risks. They found:

  • No link between silicone breast implants and connective tissue disease
  • No link between silicone breast implants and autoimmune diseases
  • No link between silicone implants and neurological disease
  • No link between silicone implants and birth defects

A Few Concerns
The only significant cancer risk Dr. McLaughlin and his team say they came across was a Swedish study that showed a significant incidence of lung cancer in women with silicone implants. These same women were found to be 2.8 times more likely to smoke, which is the primary risk factor for lung cancer, they noted.

Raising concerns about breast cancer detection, several studies found silicone implants made mammograms somewhat less precise. Despite this, when women with breast implants were diagnosed with breast cancer, their cancer was not detected at a later stage than those without implants and their survival rates were the same.

Curiously, five studies of women who had breast implants between the 1960s and the early 1990s, including a 2007 study of Swedish women by McLaughlin and his colleague at Vanderbilt-Ingram, Associate Medical Professor Loren Lipworth, ScD, found women who had breast implants were more likely to commit suicide. Dr. McLaughlin concluded this warranted further study "to determine whether a history of psychiatric illness or other factors prior to or after breast augmentation surgery may place some women at high risk of suicide later in life."

The only study of actual breast implant ruptures found 98% of newer "third-generation" implants were rupture-free after 5 years and 83% to 85% after 10 years.

This analysis of the breast augmentation risks posed by silicone implants bolsters the FDA's 2006 decision to lift the ban on silicone breast implants imposed in 1992. Bruce Shack, MD, a practicing surgeon who chairs the Department of Plastic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said, "More than 300,000 women are choosing to have breast implants every year in the United States and these studies document the safety of the implants and the techniques utilized by plastic surgeons."

You can read more about breast implants at our Breast Augmentation section.