April 21, 2006

Breast implants don’t raise cancer risk: study

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Joseph McLaughlin, Ph.D.

Breast implants don’t raise cancer risk: study

The longest follow-up study to date of cancer incidence among women with silicone breast implants showed having implants does not put women at an increased risk for cancer. In fact, breast implants were actually shown to be associated with a decreased breast cancer risk.

That's according to research led by Joseph McLaughlin, Ph.D., cancer epidemiologist with the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Their research is printed in the April 19, 2006 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

McLaughlin and colleagues studied 3,486 Swedish women who had cosmetic breast implantation for the first time from 1965 to 1993 using data collected from the Swedish Inpatient Register and Cancer Register, among other extensive records collected in Sweden.

“They have the best cancer registries in the world, going back almost 50 years,” said McLaughlin.

Investigators followed women over an average of more than 18 years, but some were tracked for up to 40 years. “It is the longest follow-up of women with breast implants for cancer incidence seen in the literature. It includes more than 2,200 women who were followed for 15 years or more after breast implantation and more than 700 women who were followed for at least 25 years.”

McLaughlin said he was not surprised to find that the women with implants had a decreased risk of breast cancer. “They tend to be thin, have smaller breasts, have children at a younger age, and all of these things are associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer.”

Women in the study did show an increased risk for lung cancer, but McLaughlin attributes the outcome to the number of women with implants who are smokers, rather than any effects from the implants.

“Women in Sweden who have breast implants smoke much more than the general population.”

McLaughlin said the take-home message is women with breast implants should not be concerned about an increased risk for cancer. “This is one in a series of reassuring study results that shows there is no credible evidence to indicate an excess risk of any form of cancer due to breast implantation.”

The study was funded by the International Epidemiology Institute, which received funds from the Dow Corning Corporation; however McLaughlin said they were not involved in any aspect of the study design, data collection or analysis or interpretation of the results.

McLaughlin is also a member of the International Epidemiology Institute.