In a review of 12 earlier studies of breast cancer patients, a team of epidemiologists from Canada found that women with implants had a 26 percent higher risk of being diagnosed at a later stage of the disease. This was possibly because implants cast shadows on mammograms, blocking the view of breast tissue.
A separate review of five other studies showed that women with implants also had a 38 percent greater risk of death from breast cancer, said the authors — likely due to the later diagnosis.There was no data to suggest that the implants themselves were a cause of cancer.
“The research published to date suggests that cosmetic breast augmentation adversely affects the survival of women who are subsequently diagnosed as having breast cancer,” wrote the team.
But they stressed the findings should be interpreted “with caution” as some of the studies included in the meta-analysis may have had scientific shortcomings.
The studies analysed were all published after 1993, mainly in the United States, Europe and Canada.
Commenting on the research, plastic surgeon Fazel Fatah, agreed the findings should be treated with caution.
“This paper does raise however the important issue of possible problems with early diagnosis of localised breast cancer in some women who have breast implants due to difficulty with mammography,” he told AFP.
Implants did not prevent women from feeling lumps in their own breasts.
“Further studies are required to see if other forms of breast scanning, such as MRI, could be preferable to mammography in women who have breast implants,” said Fatah, a former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.