Title: "I Have Breast Implants; Should I Be Worried About Breast Cancer?" Woman with breast implant and doctor, pink ribbon

Do Breast Implants Cause Breast Cancer?

Though breast implants of varying materials have been used for decades, Dow Corning Corporation manufactured the first silicone breast implants for wide scale use in 1962.  These were used for both breast enhancement (augmentation) and reconstruction, often after cancer surgery. Subsequently, questions arose about whether breast implants caused not only breast cancer, but neurological disease and autoimmune disorders such as scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.

Prior to 1976, breast implants were not federally regulated.  In the late 1980’s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began asking manufacturers of silicone implants for premarket approval, and in 1991, the FDA requested safety information.  Since manufacturers were unable to provide safety data, the FDA banned silicone implants in 1992.

In 2000, the Institute of Medicine published a 440 page report [1] on the safety of breast implants, concluding there was no evidence supporting an association between silicone breast implants and breast cancer. Additionally, the study did not find any connection between silicone breast implants and autoimmune or neurological disorders. In other words, these diseases were not more common in women with breast implants over the general population.

In 2006, the FDA lifted the ban and approved silicone breast implants that now met the FDA’s safety standards. Since then, the FDA has developed a National Breast Implant Registry to gather safety and performance data of breast implants. The data indicates that not surprisingly, women with breast implants are at higher risk for additional surgeries, infections, hematomas, breast pain, implant rupture and capsular contracture. Other possible complications include breast implant illness (BII), and breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). BII is associated with vague symptoms and may be more prevalent in women with a personal or family history of autoimmune disease or allergies. BIA-ALCL is a cancer of the immune system associated with only textured implants manufactured by Allergan. Overall, the risk for BIA-ALCL remains low and it is curable if diagnosed early.

The best way to determine if breast implants are right for you is to discuss your preferences, risks, and benefits with your physician. In summary, breast implants do not cause breast cancer.

Written by:

Emran Imami, MD, FACS, MBA
Founder of TEPAS™ Breast Center
Clinical Surgical Faculty, Burrell College of Medicine

Rochelle Mogilevsky 
3rd-year medical student, Burrell College of Medicine


[1] Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on the Safety of Silicone Breast Implants; Bondurant S, Ernster V, Herdman R, editors. Safety of Silicone Breast Implants. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44792/ doi: 10.17226/9602