A new meta-analysis combining data from 12 studies has provided evidence that cosmetic breast implants may negatively impact breast cancer detection and survival rates.
The research, conducted by epidemiologist Eric Lavigne and colleagues at the Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec, Canada and published in the BMJ, showed that in women diagnosed with breast cancer, those with cosmetic breast implants were at increased risk of being diagnosed when the cancer had reached a later stage compared to women without implants.
More significantly, in a sub-group of 5 studies, those women diagnosed with breast cancer who had cosmetic breast implants had a 38% greater risk of death than women without implants.
The researchers stated that “the accumulating evidence suggests that women with cosmetic breast implants who develop breast cancer have an increased risk of being diagnosed as having non-localised breast tumours more frequently than do women with breast cancer who do not have implants,” adding that the results “should be interpreted with caution” due to study limitations.
There have been concerns about the safety of cosmetic breast implants for some time, although numerous research studies have found no link between implants and increased breast cancer risk. However, this new study highlights the concern that implants may impair early detection and diagnosis of the disease, leaving women at increased risk of being diagnosed at a later stage. Both silicone and saline breast implants are opaque, blocking the full visualisation of breast tissue at mammography, and leading to an increased number of false-negatives. Early detection remains the best chance of long-term survival.
The incidence of breast cancer in Australia is increasing and it is now estimated that one in every nine Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Cosmetic breast augmentation surgery has also increased in the past decade and is one of the most common forms of cosmetic surgery in Australia.
In the USA, 307,000 cosmetic breast implant surgeries were performed in 2011, a 4% increase on 2010. Of concern, the number of surgeries conducted in Australia is unknown and recent reports in the Medical Journal of Australia highlighted the inadequacy of the Australian Breast Implant Registry (Med J Aust, 2012).
Following the recall of silicone gel ‘Poly Implant Prosthese’ breast implants in 2010, due to high rupture rates, Dr Amy Jeeves of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and colleagues, estimated that only 3% of the true number of implants were recorded on the Registry, making long-term follow-up difficult. She said that there was a “clear need for improved collection of breast implant data in Australia.”
Source: BMJ, 30 April, 2013. The full article can be read here http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2399
About the Author
Dr Ruth Hadfield obtained her PhD (DPhil) from the University of Oxford in 2000. She has authored over 30 peer-reviewed journal articles and acted as a reviewer for a number of well-respected medical journals. For more information visit her website at www.mediwrite.com.au
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