Breast Implants Linked to Rare Form of Blood Cancer

Breast implants have been linked to a rare but aggressive form of blood cancer - anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL – in a report released by the FDA on Wednesday, January 26.

Both saline and silicone gel-filled implants have been linked to the cancer that appears around the shell of the implant, anytime after it is placed. Both types of implants have silicone casing which FDA researchers suspect maybe the culprit.

ALCL is extremely rare and makes up only about 3 percent of all blood cancers in adults, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Delinked from implants, ALCL in the breast occurs in three out of every 100 million women per year worldwide.

The FDA has identified a total of 60 ALCL cases worldwide in women with breast implants. The cases occurred between one year and 23 years after the implant was placed.

The total number of women with implants in the world is estimated to be 5 million, so only one in every 100,000 women with implants gets the cancer. Statistically, that is less than the chance of anyone being hit by lightening.

However, the cancer's link to implants is obvious and the FDA has advised doctors to screen women for ALCL if they are facing problems with their implants. If the doctors see late onset, persistent fluid around the implant they should send the fluid for pathology tests.

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

According to the FDA, women with implants have nothing to worry about unless they are facing problems. There is no reason for women to have their implants removed, or not opt for them in the first place.

Women whose breasts have become painful following implants should approach their doctors.

The FDA announcement is likely aimed at encouraging doctors to readily report implant related complications, allowing more research, deeper insight and possibly solutions.

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