Though the FDA has long been aware of the risk that some people with breast implants may develop a rare form of T-cell lymphoma—now known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) and tracked by the regulator since 2011—the agency has only recently begun warning about other cancer risks linked to the implants.
The FDA first issued a safety alert last September about the possibility of other lymphomas and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) developing in the scar tissue that forms around breast implants. This week, it shared the results of its analysis of literature about SCC cases in people with breast implants and updated its recommendations for healthcare providers accordingly.
After reviewing a range of abstracts and full scientific articles published through January of this year, the FDA found 19 reported cases of SCC developing in the capsule around breast implants. Of those identified patients, three died from the carcinoma.
For the most part, the skin cancer was discovered after the appearance of symptoms that included swelling and pain in the breast—found in 90% of the reviewed cases—as well as the development of lumps, skin discoloration and more.
And while they had some symptoms in common, the cases spanned a range of patients: They were aged between 40 and 81 when the cancer was diagnosed, and the diagnosis came between seven and 42 years after the breast implants had been put in place. The type of implant varied, too—the cases reviewed by the FDA included both silicone gel- and saline-filled implants, and implants with textured, smooth and foam-covered surfaces.
The FDA noted in Wednesday’s safety communication that while cases of SCC linked to breast implants are rare, “the cause, incidence and risk factors remain unknown.”