Breast implants may cause cancer, the FDA says. It seems to be rare, but still…

September 9, 2022, 4:47 PM UTC
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Breast implants may cause more types of cancer than previously thought, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.

Implants, considered medical devices by the FDA, may pose a risk of squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, and various lymphomas, or cancers of the immune system, “in the capsule or scar tissue around breast implants,” Dr. Binita Ashar, director of the Office of Surgical and Infection Control Devices at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement.

These cancers are different from breast implant–associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), identified in 2011, a T-cell lymphoma that can occur after breast implant surgery. As with the types of cancer the FDA warned of Thursday, it’s not breast cancer, but a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or cancer of the immune system. 

The risk of BIA-ALCL is thought to be low, but it is able to spread from the scar tissue and fluid surrounding the implant, throughout the body. And occurrences of squamous cell carcinoma and various lymphomas after breast implants appear to be rare, Ashar wrote.

But she encouraged patients and medical professionals to report such instances—and any other instance of cancer in the breast implant capsule—to the FDA’s MedWatch adverse event reporting program so the agency can determine if such instances are more common than currently known, and if they’re truly associated with implants.

Some cases of the cancers were diagnosed years after breast implants. Symptoms of all three included swelling, pain, lumps, and/or skin changes, according to the FDA.

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