Numerous epidemiologic studies have sought to establish whether women who have undergone cosmetic breast augmentation are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. The conclusion of these studies is that breast implants do not increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. A recent study from Canada (1) analyzed whether breast cancer is diagnosed at a more advanced stage in patients with implants, and whether the survival in patients with implants is lower than in those without. It concluded, contrary to previous evidence, that women with implants are at higher risk of having non-localized breast cancer, and that their survival is negatively affected relatively to women without implants. However, these conclusions are somewhat unreliable since there were confounding factors, such as patient body mass index (BMI), which were not accounted for when the statistical analysis was performed.

Breast implants, both saline and silicone gel filled, are radio-opaque, hence on mammography there is a small amount of breast tissue that is obscured by the presence of implants. Special views which displace breast implants are usually performed to increase the amount of tissue visualized on mammogram. Additional imaging modalities such as ultrasound and MRI are available to provide better evaluation of the entire breast. Just as women with very dense breasts may benefit from extra imaging such as ultrasound or MRI, so too women with breast implants may be advised to undergo more accurate and comprehensive imaging studies. Breast implants placed in a submuscular (under the pectoralis major muscle), rather than subglandular (under the breast) position allow better visualization of the overlying breast tissue. Genetic factors such as family history of breast cancer and the presence of the BRCA gene mutation are highly correlated with the risk of a woman developing breast cancer. One in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, but there is wide variation for each woman given her particular attributes. Prior to undergoing breast augmentation, discussion of potential risks and complications with your plastic surgeon is essential, as is a comprehensive pre-operative evaluation including possible breast imaging studies.

Dr. Olivia Hutchinson is a board certified female plastic surgeon in NYC and performs breast augmentation with saline and silicone implants in the safety and comfort of her AAAASF certified Operating Room. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Hutchinson, please contact us or call us at (212) 452-1400.

1. Lavigne, Eric, et al. “Breast Cancer Detection and Survival Among Women with Cosmetic Breast Implants: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies”, BMJ 2013;346:f2399.

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