Friday April 27 03:02 AM EDT
"Brain, Lung Cancers Linked to Breast Implants"
Brain, Lung Cancers Linked to Breast Implants
By Fran Berger
THURSDAY, April 26 (HealthScout) -- The debate over the safety of breast implants isn't about to go away any time soon.
Two new studies say that, although there's no link to breast cancer, the implants may be connected to lung or brain cancer, leading those opposed to surgical enhancement to say this is a warning signal to women everywhere.
Both studies were conducted under the leadership of Dr. Louise Brinton, the National Cancer Institute (news - web sites)'s (NCI) head of the environmental epidemiology branch. The studies focused on the same group of almost 13,500 women who had undergone surgical breast enhancement at 18 plastic surgery centers. One study looked at where cancers formed; the other looked at causes of death.
Comparisons were made between three groups of women: those with implants; those who had had different kinds of plastic surgery; and the general public. The women in the studies had all received their implants before 1989 and were tracked for an average of 13 years.
Women who had silicone implants, saline implants or implants that combined both materials were included in the study groups. Women who had implants after breast cancer surgery were not included in the studies.
The studies, which appear in the May 2001 issues of both Epidemiology and Annals of Epidemiology, found that women with silicone breast implants didn't have a higher risk of breast cancer, according to a statement issued by the National Cancer Institute.
However, the NCI reports, Brinton's team found respiratory and brain cancers were greater in the implant group, compared to women who had had other kinds of plastic surgery. In addition, 11 cases of brain tumors among the implant patients were identified on death certificates. The reason the researchers used other plastic surgery patients for a control was because these women would all tend to come from the same social and economic backgrounds, making the comparisons more valid.
NCI says, "It is possible that the higher risks observed for respiratory and brain cancers are not related to exposure to silicone, but are due to either chance findings or to factors common to women who choose to have implants."
But, Diana Zuckerman, director of the National Center for Policy Research for Women and Families and a member of the outside scientific advisory committee for the studies, says "this is a wake up call, and the message is just how little we know."
And, she adds, "just because this is a one-of-a-kind study with outcomes that are unexpected -- that will cause some people to dismiss it, and that's a big mistake."
Patty Klein, the manager of epidemiology and FDA (news - web sites) and regulatory affairs for Dow Corning, a former manufacturer of silicone breast implants, warns against scare-mongering and "does take exception to some of Brinton's interpretations."
Klein says that since Brinton points out the incidences of lung cancer may be related to smoking, rather than the implants, great care needs to be taken before concluding whether or not the implants and cancer are linked.
"This is a polarized issue," says Klein. "Unfortunately the ones lost in the middle are the women with implants."
Silicone breast implants were removed from the market in l992 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
What To Do
Klein recommends any woman with doubts or questions about her implants should consult with her physician.
For more breast implant information, go to the
For a collection of articles and useful links, go to the National Library of Medicine's
For more HealthScout stories on breast implants, click
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