FDA: Breast implants may be linked to rare cancer

The Food and Drug Administration issued a notice today regarding a rare form of cancer and its link to breast implants, although women who have augmented breasts have not been advised to seek any sort of treatment above and beyond standard health care screenings.

The link detected by the FDA is between anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a cancer that affects the immune system, and both silicone and saline breast implants. Although it is estimated that women who have breast implants number between five and ten million globally, only 60 cases of the cancer in patients with breast implants have surfaced.

A spokeswoman for Allergan, whose products along with Johnson & Johnson’s were linked to the cases, downplayed the concerns in an emailed statement:

“A woman is more likely to be struck by lightning than get this condition,” said Caroline Van Hove… “Patients’ safety is Allergan’s absolute first priority and we continue all efforts to collect and analyze further information about the very rare occurrence of ALCL in patients with breast implants.”

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons expressed concern that the report would hamper access to the popular cosmetic enhancement:

“For nearly 20 years American women were denied access to their choice of breast implants because of false claims and unfounded science,” said Phillip Haeck, the physician group’s president, in a statement. “We are determined this shouldn’t happen again.”

One theory floated about the link suggests that local T cells could be stimulated by the presence of the implant, precipitating lymphoma.