Posted on June 7th, 2013 by
Breast cancer appears to be more deadly among women with cosmetic breast implants, according to the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal—possibly because it is detected at a more advanced stage.
Approximately 200,000 women are diagnosed annually with breast cancer in the U.S. alone. When diagnosed and treated early (prior to spread from the breast), cure rates for breast cancer remain high following standard therapy. However, cure rates fall dramatically once the cancer has spread. Therefore, identifying factors associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer is important; patients at higher risk may benefit from more frequent screening to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages.
Cosmetic breast implants have long been a source of controversy—and while data indicates that implants do not increase the risk of developing breast cancer, this new study shows that women with implants who are subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer may have an increased risk of dying from the disease.
Researchers conducted two meta-analyses of 12 studies that included a total of 28,924 women. The first meta-analysis compared women with implants who had breast cancer and women without implants who had breast cancer. The second meta-analysis (of five studies) evaluated the relationship between cosmetic breast implantation and survival.
The researchers found that breast cancer patients were 38 percent more likely to die from the disease if they had implants. What’s more—women with implants were 26 percent more likely to have a more advanced stage of cancer at diagnosis.
As with all research, caution is necessary in interpreting the results. While most studies have not found an association between implants and breast cancer, this new data caused researchers to speculate that implants may impair the ability to identify breast cancer at an early stage—thus leading to more advanced stage at diagnosis and an increased risk of death.
More research is necessary to explore the relationship between breast implants and mortality.
Lavigne E, Holowaty EJ, Pan SY, et al. Breast cancer detection and survival among women with cosmetic breast implants: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ. 2013; 346: f2399.
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