Silicone Implants – Do They Increase Risk for Breast Cancer?
In a word, No.
Silicone gel breast implants can have a more natural look and feel than saline implants. They have been safely used, worldwide, since the early 1960s. Only in the US has there been a ban on them, which the FDA imposed between 1992 and 2006.
FDA's 14-year restriction on silicone gel implants
This restriction was sparked by a CBS "news" report made by Connie Chung in 1990 which featured one woman who claimed without evidence that her silicone implants had caused health problems.
A media-induced panic followed, with political groups blowing on the flames, such as the National Organization of Women, who are opposed to any woman having breastfeeding implants of any kind. Attorneys swiftly took advantage of it to file class action laws against the implant manufacturers. Also enjoying the ride were many doctors, who served as highly-paid expert witnesses in these lawsuits.
Rather than trying to use the plentiful scientific data in their defense, since it was so resolutely being ignored by the attorneys and media outlets, the manufacturing companies settled with the plaintiffs, setting up a $ 4.2 billion fund from which they could be paid. This move drve down the stock values of these companies, hurting many 401k accounts and other stockholders, and drve the principal manufacturer, Dow Corning, into bankruptcy.
Driven by this media frenzy, the FDA in 1992 restricted the use of silicone gel implants to reconstructive use, rather than cosmetic use, pending further research.
Subsequent studies done
In 1995 several large research studies were published which re-affirmed the non-existence of any connection between silicone gel implants and systemic diseases, such as auto-immune diseases and cancer. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences published their report, which implicitly excluded any connections between silicone gel implants and health problems. A large study done in Los Angeles and Canada found a statistically significant lower incidence of cancer in women with breast implants.
What is silicone?
Silicon (with no "e" at the end) is one of Earth's elements, and the most abundant, after oxygen. It's found in sand, rocks, crystals etc. Silicone (with the "e" at the end) is the name for various compounds made from silicon, which can take the form of oil, grease, or plastic.
Silicone is used in thousands of ways and we all have some of it in our bodies. It's used as a lubricant in water pipes, in copy machines, hairspray, perfumes, hospital needles and syringes, pacemakers, joint implants, and many medications. Cow's milk has more silicone in it than the mother's milk of a woman with breast silicone gel implants.
In none of these silicone uses has any health problem been found.
· Diagnosing cancer in the presence of implants – no study has found any delay in cancer diagnosis because of the presence of breast implants. Implants hide anywhere between 20% to 60% of breast tissue during a mammogram, especially if they're placed above the muscle, and mammograms must be done a little differently. However, in comparing groups of women with and without implants, no significant difference was found as to the size or stage of the tumor when it was diagnosed.
· Family history of breast cancer – About one in nine women develop breast cancer, and if there's a family history of it, the chances of it recording are much higher. As a precaution, all cosmetic surgeons will do a good breast exam before any augmentation procedure, and some will have such patients get a mammogram before their augmentation.
FDA-mandated studies in the future
As a condition of the November, 2006 approval of the silicone gel breast implants made by two companies in California (Allergan and Mentor), the FDA has required that these companies conduct large follow-up studies to track the success of their implants.
These studies will be collecting data on incidences of cancer, connective tissue diseases, neurological diseases, suicide, implant rupture, reproductive issues, and others. The studies will run for ten years and the companies must submit quarterly reports to the FDA on their progress.
"A woman has a right to choose," remarked cosmetic surgeon Dr. Adrian Lo in Philadelphia, PA, who has many happy post-augmentation patients. "A woman can choose to have breast augmentation if discussions with her cosmetic surgeon to establish it to be positive in her life. , neither one of which has been shown to have any causative connection to cancer. "