FDA Reports Link Between Breast Implants and a Rare Cancer

Breast implants linked to rare form of cancer, according to FDA

ByABC News
January 26, 2011, 4:41 PM

Jan. 26, 2010— -- Saline and silicone gel-filled breast implants may be linked to a rare form of cancer in some women, according to an announcement made Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA received nearly 60 reports of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL, from women who had breast implants. The cancer generally formed around the shell of the implant, according to the reports.

ALCL, a rare and aggressive type of lymphoma, makes up only about 3 percent of all lymphomas in adults, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

"If you look overall [at the likelihood of ALCL] for women who get these implants it is very, very rare," said Dr. Jasmine Zain, a lymphoma specialist who directs the bone marrow transplant program at New York University Cancer Institute.

Breast implants are most often used for cosmetic enhancement. About 350,000 women have had elective breast implantation, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

But many medical experts recommend breast augmentation as a reconstruction method for many women who have undergone a mastectomy. Around 57,000 women have undergone reconstructive breast implantation, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Previous studies have suggested ALCL is more common in women with implants. Zain said she has seen a few cases of ALCL among patients who received silicone breast implants, suggesting that there may have been a link.

In fact, for decades many experts, including Dr. Michael Harbut, director of the environmental cancer program and the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Mich., warned of potential harmful chemicals in breast implants.

"I'm angry," said Harbut. "I think the collective IQ of those at FDA to look into this sooner is equivalent to the temperature of the Arctic."