Silicone Breast Implant Risks Remain A Mystery: Study

Despite numerous studies focusing on the potential health risks of silicone breast implants, definitive information on whether they are safe remains inconclusive. 

A study on health outcomes for women who received silicone breast implants was published online by the Annals of Internal Medicine on November 10, but the findings may raise more questions than answers.

Researchers from New England focused on 32 studies in 58 publications, indicating that they found no conclusive evidence tying the silicone breast implants to a higher risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis or other health side effects.

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Several studies examined did reveal an association between silicone breast implants and lung cancer, as well as diseases that affect the functioning of the immune system, according to the findings. These include rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud syndrome, and Sjorgen syndrome, which affects the saliva and tear glands.

The study also revealed a possible association between silicone breast implants and a decreased risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancers.

The research was funded by the Plastic Surgery Foundation and several companies that manufacture silicone breast implants.

In 2012, UK health officials said the silicone gel in Poly Implant Porthese (PIP) breast implants was not toxic to women. The report revealed the implants had a tendency to rupture in on-third of women, but the industrial-grade silicone gel was nontoxic.

Confounding Factors

Researchers in this latest study said it is difficult to say definitively there are no side effects of silicon breast implants, because the associations may be explained by other factors.

Lead author of the study Dr. Ethan Balk said there are “fundamental” differences between women who opt to get breast implants and women who don’t. He said women who get breast implants are typically thinner, more active, more likely to use birth control pills, drink alcohol more often and have higher smoking rates.

Researchers said those factors must be accounted for to find a conclusive association between the implants and potential health impacts. However, most studies do not adequately account for those factors, skewing the results, he said.

Six studies also found a link between silicone breast implants and a higher than average suicide risk. Researchers say none of the studies analyzed factored women’s psychological well-being.

In 2011, the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen warned that the FDA did not adequately alert women to silicone breast implant risks. The group advised women against getting the silicon implants.

Overall, researchers say the findings of this study are inconsistent. They do not lead to a definite answer on health side effects and more studies, with better control of other factors, should be conducted.

Silicone Breast Implant Recall

Silicone breast implants were introduced in the 1960s, and were removed from the market after safety concerns were raised with the FDA in 1992, amid reports of breast implant ruptures. A moratorium was placed on the silicon implants until findings concerning their long-term safety could be determined.

The implants were reintroduced to the market in 2006, after no definitive links to health side effects or disease were found. The FDA ruled against a second silicone breast implant recall in 2011, and called for improved surveillance, demanding manufacturers perform long term follow-up studies.

Federal health regulators have been collaborating with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to create a national registry, but that registry still has not been finalized. As a result, there is no way of effectively tracking silicon breast implant problems.

So far, known and well-documented silicone breast implant risks include, breast pain, formation of hard lumps under the skin, and capsular contracture, or a hardening of the breast tissue around the implant.


  • LucindaFebruary 25, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    I had mentor smooth high profile removed in 2018 diagnosed with lung cancer 2019 unrelated to breast cancer in 2012. Now am told I may still have silicone inside my left axillary.

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