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Report: Some breast implants pose cancer risk


FILE – In this Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011, file photo Dr. Maurice Mimoun, a plastic surgeon at the St Louis hospital in Paris holds a silicone gel breast implant made by French company Poly Implant Prothese, or PIP, that he removed from a patient because of concerns that they are unsafe. An independent expert group released a report Wednesday April 24, 2013, which slammed Britain’s cosmetic surgery industry for not protecting patients adequately and is calling for stricter controls in the aftermath of a breast implant scandal in Europe last year that left tens of thousands of women with cheap silicone implants prone to ruptures. The expert group, commissioned by the U.K. Department of Health, also called for the creation of a registry of implants and other medical devices. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

When “textured” breast implants went on the market in the early 1990s, they were billed as a way to reduce scarring and other problems associated with breast augmentation.

Now Penn State College of Health researchers say the implants may cause cancer, and its surgeons have stopped using them.

In a report published by the Journal of American Medical Association, researchers say this type of cancer had never been seen before the implants were used.

Dr. Donald Mackay, a Penn State Health plastic surgeon who helped with the research, says early estimates gave women with the implants a one in 30,000 change of developing what is now called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. However, there’s growing evidence that the risk is much greater.

“In Australia and New Zealand they’re talking about somewhere between one in 3,000 to one in 10,000,” Mackay says.

He says it’s no accident that researchers are looking at other countries for data. In the U.S., only about 12 percent of breast implants are textured, but in some countries they’ve become the standard. In the U.S., many women who received the textured implants got them after undergoing a mastectomy.

The report says that, because the risk likely has been underestimated, some plastic surgeons may not even be aware of the link between textured implants and the lymphoma.

Mackay says the cancer is easy to cure if detected early. If neglected, it could be fatal. Those with other types of implants are not at risk. He urged women with the implants to speak with their doctors.

As a note of disclosure, Penn State Health provides financial support to Transforming Health. 

Brett Sholtis
Brett Sholtis

Brett Sholtis was a health reporter for WITF/Transforming Health until early 2023. Sholtis is the 2021-2022 Reveal Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee for Mental Health Investigative Journalism with the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. His award-winning work on problem areas in mental health policy and policing helped to get a woman moved from a county jail to a psychiatric facility. Sholtis is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Pennsylvania Army National Guard Kosovo campaign veteran.

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