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Breast Implants May Cause Rare Lymphoma
- Updated: September 20, 2014
In 2013, breast augmentation was the number one performed cosmetic procedure. In just that one year alone approximately 290,000 women received saline or silicone implants. Typically, women have no problem with breast augmentation but in limited cases, some patients develop anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare blood cancer.
Thanks to a new study, researchers and medical professionals have a better understanding as to why this occurs. This blood cancer, also referred to as ALCL, is a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), which accounts for just 3% of all NHL diagnoses. Usually, ALCL shows up in the skin, liver, soft tissue, and lymph nodes but in rare instances, it appears in the breast.
As stated by Dr. Suzanne Turner with the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, the majority of breast ALCL cases have occurred in patients who underwent augmentation surgery, which involves tumors developing 100% of the time in scar tissue around the area of the implant.
Findings of this study were published in the journal Mutation Research, led by Dr. Turner and her colleagues. As part of the study, all available studies involving ALCL, as well as patient case reports were reviewed. From this, the team identified 71 known cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma throughout the world, all of them linked to breast implants. Although extremely rare, this blood cancer affects approximately one of every six women in every three million breast augmentation surgeries.
However, while ALCL is rare, Dr. Matt Kaiser, head of research at Leukemia and Lymphoma Research in the UK feels the underlying mechanisms still need to be investigated. He adds that researching possible links to the cause of these cancers is vital, thereby making it possible for people to consider both benefits and risks of having breast augmentation.
For all of the studies conducted, women with ALCL were split into two groups consisting of those who have cancer cells with an abnormal surface protein known as anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) and those who do not have this abnormality.
In most cases, patients with ALK-positive ALCL responded quite well to treatment, having a survival rate of five years or more. In comparison, ALK-negative patients typically need a much more aggressive approach when it comes to treatment. For these women, only 50% live past the five-year mark.
In Dr. Turner’s study, the majority of patients analyzed with ALCL relating to breast implants were ALK-negative and m responded positively to treatment. The team had access to treatment progress for 49 cases and discovered that just five deaths had been reported.
Also found from the study was that for a lot of these women, removing the breast implant along with tissue in the surrounding area proved to be a successful treatment for ALCL. As a result, there was no need for the women to undergo radiation or chemotherapy treatment. Based on this finding, researchers working strongly believe it is the breast implant that causes an abnormal immune response, which in turn leads to ALCL.
Having revealed new information, Dr. Turner thinks the study findings will provide necessary clues to breast implant-related ALCL and in fact, they could lead the way for patients with this rare form of cancer to receive more effective treatment.
It has become clearer that ALCL in relation to breast implants is a unique clinical entity. As such, the many remaining questions can only be answered by understanding the underlying mechanisms, making it possible to discover or develop new treatment options. The data gathered from Dr. Turner’s study was supported last year with a report in Medical News Today on Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) implants that pose risk on developing fetuses.