Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that silicone and saline breast implants may be associated with a rare form of cancer. The cancer, known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), has been found in 34 women with breast implants. ALCL has been found in the capsule surrounding the implant, but not the breast tissue itself. The FDA concluded that there may be a link between breast implants and ALCL after examining scientific literature that described ALCL in 34 women with breast implants, as well as data from national and international regulatory agencies, scientific experts, and breast implant manufacturers. In most cases. ALCL was found years after breast implant surgery.
It is estimated that 5-10 million women worldwide have breast implants. With only 34 cases of ALCL described, it’s impossible to say at this time that breast implants cause ALCL. Even though the risks of getting ALCL with breast implants, if real, are exceedingly small, given that the usual incidence is around 1 in 500,000, it’s important to investigate this matter more thoroughly. To that end, the FDA and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) are establishing a registry of ALCL patients who have breast implants. FDA scientists hope the registry yields enough information to better understand what the risks for developing ALCL are for women with breast implants.
Ultimately, what’s a patient to do? If the risk of getting ALCL from breast implants is real, it is exceedingly small. Says Caroline Hove, spokesperson for Allergan in an article from the Wall Street Journal, “”A woman is more likely to be struck by lightning than get this condition.” That being said, ALCL has the potential to be fatal; the informed patient should be aware of this very small but possibly significant risk associated with breast implants.