Two deaths and 23 cases of rare cancer in the U.K. linked to controversial textured breast implants

Since the year began, two women in the U.K. have died from cancer after receiving breast implants, revealed the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The organization has reported another 23 cases of women who’ve developed the same type of cancer: anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

The disease is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that affects the lymph nodes of the immune system. The symptoms of ALCL include fever, painless swelling of the lymph nodes, and back pain. It’s believed that these instances of ALCL can be attributed to textured breast implants, specifically, to the inflammation caused by their rough textures, reported the This inflammation would then cause the body’s immune system to weaken and develop the disease over the course of several years. One other theory states that bacteria on the surface of the implant could progress into a lymphoma after some time.

According to the MHRA, these figures should be no cause for alarm since there has yet to be a definitive link between the cancers and the implants.

“A report does not necessarily mean that the events described were caused by the implant. The number of reports received, therefore, is not a summary of known or proven adverse reactions to the implant. In the UK, there is currently no definitive evidence of an association with ALCL and any specific make or model of breast implant,” said a spokesperson for the organization.

Experts, however, disagree and have called for the U.K. to issue a warning against textured breast implants.

Jim Frame, cosmetic surgery professor at Anglia Ruskin University, remarked: “This cancer is a potential bombshell that has been swept under the carpet for five years. Textured implants should be banned. We should return to using smooth ones which were safe.” (Related: Plastic surgeon says women with breast implants have 10 times the risk for cancer than we were previously told)

In the U.S., similarly grim figures were released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): As of Mar. 23, 2017, the FDA received 359 reports of ALCL cases associated with breast implants, including nine deaths. Of the 359 cases, 231 came with information on the textures of the breast implants; 203 were reported to be textured breast implants, while only 28 were smooth breast implants. The FDA then concluded that women who received textured breast implants were at higher risk of developing ALCL over women with smooth breast implants.

In Australia, 46 cases of ALCL, including three deaths, have been reported thus far by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The regulatory body stated that the chances of developing ALCL were between one in 1,000 and one in 10,000 women with breast implants.

Textured breast implants were created in the 1980s to prevent implants from moving around in the surgeon-created breast pocket. Due to their slight roughness, the implants would stay firmly in place and minimize the likelihood of the breasts becoming irregularly shaped and the development of capsular contracture, or the growth of hard and uncomfortable scar tissue around the implants. Unlike smooth breast implants, textured breast implants are available with a shape and are therefore the implant of choice for women who are undergoing reconstruction post mastectomy.

However, textured breast implants come with their own set of complications. Compared to smooth breast implants, textured ones were more likely to ripple and leak. Smooth implants are also cheaper and last longer than textured breast implants.

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