French Health Officials Link Breast Implant to Rare Cancer

The French government is advising surgeons to stop using certain breast implants, citing their possible link to a rare form of cancer.

Both types of breast implants — smooth and textured — have been linked to anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a cancer that forms in the scar tissue and fluid around the implants. French health authorities have identified textured implants as poising a greater risk, however, and on Nov. 21 advised the country’s surgeons to stop using them as it investigates their safety.

According to the Agence France-Presse, roughly 85 percent of French implant wearers have implants with textured surfaces, which prevents them from slipping out of place. By comparison, textured implants account for about 13 percent of the U.S. market.

When left untreated, ALCL can spread throughout the body and become fatal. Those who have their implants and capsules removed quickly, however, can make full recoveries.

According to NBC News, it is unknown why textured implants would increase the risk of cancer. One theory suggests that some women are more genetically susceptible to ALCL, while another supposes that bacteria may grow on the implant’s surface, causing irritation that leads to lymphoma.

A relationship between implants and ALCL was first identified in 1997.

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration formally linked ALCL with all breast implants. Although ALCL appears “more frequently in individuals with textured implants,” the FDA warns, people with smooth-surfaced implants are still at risk.

Some people who received the implant after 2011 claim they weren’t properly informed about the potential danger, including Carla Wilson.

“A lot of women who have [Breast-Implant-Associated]-ALCL live in a state of guilt,” Wilson, who was diagnosed with ALCL in 2016, told The Guardian. “I felt almost like I’d done it to myself. You don’t feel like a valid cancer patient in the way other cancer patients do, despite never having been warned of the risk of cancer when I made the decision.”

As of September 2017, nearly 250 cases of textured implant-related ALCL have been confirmed in the U.S. Experts speculate, however, that the actual number is between 800 and 1,000, as many cases go undiagnosed. Most of the reported cases were diagnosed around seven years after implantation.

According to NBC News, the FDA will hold public hearings on the issue next year in order to gain more information about the link between textured implants and cancer. The French government plans to do the same, advising physicians against using the implants in the meantime.

The United States has not echoed that advisory, although some U.S. doctors have proposed a similar approach.

“The way to eliminate the problem is to just not use textured implants,” said Dr. Eric Swanson, a cosmetic surgeon in Kansas.

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