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 May 02, 2013
Breast implants 'increase risk of dying from cancer'

 Women who have breast implants are less likely to survive breast cancer, according to a study published today. It suggests that women with implants are more likely to develop the disease and that they are at risk of being diagnosed at a later stage of cancer.

More than 25,000 women in Britain have breast implants each year and the number continues to rise despite health scares, including last year's PIP defective breast implant scandal. Last week a report for the Government raised serious concerns about the cosmetic surgery business, recommending major reforms.

Now a study published in bmj.com, the online medical journal, has raised fears that breast implants significantly increase the risk of dying from breast cancer.

Experts said a possible cause was that implants can create shadows on mammograms that obscure breast tissue, making it more difficult to diagnose cancer at an early stage, and called for improved screening techniques.

A team of researchers in Canada based their findings on the results from 17 studies, mainly from North America and northern Europe.

They found that women with cosmetic breast implants had a 26 per cent increased risk of being diagnosed at a later stage of cancer than women without. Further research found that women with implants had a 38 per cent greater risk of death from breast cancer than those without.

The researchers, from universities in Quebec, Toronto and Ottawa, stressed that the findings should be treated with "caution".

However, they concluded: "The accumulating evidence suggests that women with cosmetic breast implants who develop breast cancer have an increased risk of being diagnosed as having non-localised breast tumours more frequently than do women with breast cancer who do not have implants. Moreover, current evidence also suggests that cosmetic breast implants adversely affect breast cancer specific survival following the diagnosis of such disease."

They called for further investigations into the long-term health effects of breast implants.

Dr Caitlin Palframan, from the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "We agree with the authors as the findings of this study need to be taken with caution. Although it shows reduced breast cancer survival rates among women who had breast implants at the time of diagnosis, the findings are not conclusive.

"We know there is some concern about whether breast implants make breast cancer more difficult to detect by mammogram, which could delay diagnosis, so we encourage women attending mammograms to inform their screening service that they have breast implants to ensure that all breast tissue is completely examined.

"Early detection offers the best chance of successful treatment, so we urge every woman, with or without implants, to be breast aware by regularly checking their breasts for any changes."

Mia Rosenblatt, of the charity Breast Cancer Campaign, said: "This is an important issue for many women who have breast implants, but while the findings are interesting we need further robust research before we can say that breast implants impact on survival or that these women may benefit from different screening techniques.

"While breast implants can obscure breast tissue in X-rays, it is still possible to detect breast cancer in women with implants but mammograms might need to be taken at different angles to ensure the clearest possible results."