Both saline and silicone breast implants have been found to possibly cause a small but significant increase in the risk of a type of lymphoma known as systemic anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. This cancer involves the immune system and usually forms in the capsule of scar tissue that forms around the implant. It is NOT breast cancer. The link has been discovered in cases of women who developed complications long after their surgery, such as breast lumps, swelling, pain, and fluid build up.
Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer. The two main forms of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a rare type of NHL. So far only 60 ALCL cases in women with implants worldwide have been reported to the FDA (out of 5 million – 10 million women with implants) but even this small incidence is in excess of the usual incidence of the disease. This type of lymphoma in the breast normally occurs in only 3 in 100 million women who do not have implants. While the FDA is unclear on how to diagnose this cancer, removing the implants and scar tissue and in some cases radiation and chemotherapy gets rid of the disease, according to Dr. William Maisel, the chief scientist and deputy director for science in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
The FDA made this announcement in January 2011. While it still needs more data to determine if and how the implants cause the increased cancer risk, the FDA says information about the possible link to the cancer would be added to the labeling information sent out with implants.