Cosmetic breast implants could increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 40%, according to new research.

Health on Female First

Health on Female First

The implants themselves are not believed to cause cancer, but make it harder for scans to spot the disease in the early stages because they create shadows on mammograms that can obscure some breast tissue.

Seventeen studies carried out in North America and Europe since 1993 were examined by a team of research from Laval University in Canada.

Researchers found women with breast implants had a 38% greater risk from the disease.  

However, the authors warn that these findings “should be interpreted with caution as some studies included in the meta-analysis on survival did not adjust for potential confounders.”

They point to some study limitations, but say “the accumulating evidence suggests that women with cosmetic breast implants who develop breast cancer have an increased risk of being diagnosed as having non-localized breast tumours more frequently than do women with breast cancer who do not have implants.” 

Current evidence also suggests that cosmetic breast implants “adversely affect breast cancer specific survival following the diagnosis of such disease,” they add. 

“Further investigations are warranted into the long term effects of cosmetic breast implants on the detection and prognosis of breast cancer, adjusting for potential confounders,” they conclude.

Dr Caitlin Palframan, from leading breast cancer charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer:

“We agree with the authors as the findings of this study need to be taken with caution. Although it shows reduced breast cancer survival rates among women who had breast implants at the time of diagnosis, the findings are not conclusive and more research is definitely needed before we can fully understand the effect of breast implants on survival.

“We know there is some concern about whether breast implants make breast cancer more difficult to detect by mammogram, which could delay diagnosis, so we encourage women attending mammograms to inform their screening service that they have breast implants to ensure that all breast tissue is completely examined.

“Early detection offers the best chance of successful treatment, so we urge every woman with or without implants to be breast aware by regularly checking their breasts for any changes.”

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