Study Finds No Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacements Cancer Link

A new study failed to find any evidence of a link between metal-on-metal hip replacements and an increased cancer risk, possibly allaying some fears over the side effects of metal blood poisoning caused by chromium and cobalt debris released from the artificial hip implants. 

According to findings reported this week in the British Medical Journal, researchers from the U.K. indicate that within 7 years after a metal-on-metal hip replacement is implanted, there is no statistically significant difference in the cancer rates when compared to the general population.

Researchers found that a 60-year old man who receives a metal hip implant has a 6.2 percent chance of being diagnosed with cancer over the next five years, compared with 6.7 percent among those who did not have the implant. That difference is statistically insignificant, meaning the chances are the same and that it is likely that the metal-on-metal hip had no effect on the risk of cancer.

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Although the study does address some concerns over an increased risk of cancer from metal hip replacements, researchers indicate that additional long-term studies are needed, as the metal particles could cause tumors that take longer to develop.

The study also does not help reduce concerns over the increased failure rates associated with the artificial hip systems or address other health complications from metal ions entering the blood stream, which some experts have indicated could impact the nervous system, heart and thyroid glands.

Metal-on-metal hip replacements increased in popularity over the past decade, based on indications by the manufacturers that the devices were more durable. However, recent evidence suggests that many of these devices are failing within a few years of surgery and may be causing individuals to face a number of serious health risks.

In August 2010, a recall for the DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hip system was issued after it was discovered that about one out of every 8 of the hip implants were failing within five years of surgery.  More than 3,500 people throughout the United States are now pursuing a DePuy ASR hip lawsuit after experiencing problems with the implant.

Similar product liability lawsuits have also been filed over problems with other metal-on-metal hip systems, such as the DePuy Pinnacle, Wright Medical Conserve Plus and the BioMet M2A-Magnum.

In May 2011, the FDA asked device manufacturers to obtain more information about the level at which the metal particles shed by hip replacements becomes dangerous, how much metal they actually shed and what the potential side effects of metallosis are.

Last week, the FDA announced that an independent panel of experts will be convened this summer to review the safety concerns with metal-on-metal hip replacement and resurfacing systems, and make recommendations about any regulatory actions that should be taken to protect consumers from the risks associated with the microscopic shavings of cobalt and chromium that may be released into the body.

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