Early Research Shows Implants May Protect Against Certain Cancer Proteins

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Recent research from Northwestern University has helped to identify compounds created after breast implants that help protect against certain breast cancers. Eugene, OR plastic surgeon Mark Jewell, MD says that for many years it has been noted that women with breast implants had lower rates of breast cancer than the general population of women. “This research has identified compounds produced after sub-glandular breast augmentation which may promote development of immunoprotective responses against breast cancer,” he explains. 

Chicago plastic surgeon Megan Fracol, MD, who led the research at Northwestern, shares that these findings are early and there are ongoing studies to look at this mechanism more carefully. Reviewing clinical population studies from the U.S., Canada, and Europe, Francol and her colleagues found there may be a lower incidence of breast cancer in patients with implants than in control populations. “Over the last four years, my mentor, Dr. John Kim and I have been delving into the relationship between breast implants and the immune system,” she explains. “We discovered that simply putting implants into young, otherwise healthy patients seems to generate antibodies to specific breast cancer antigens. We hypothesize that the implants may stimulate an inflammatory response that may have some protective effect against certain breast cancer proteins.”

La Jolla, CA plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD says this is not the first article that’s shown a lower risk for breast cancer in some patients with breast implants. “It is however, the first that really shows that the mechanism of why there is a protective antibody in those who have implants in front of the muscle,” he says. “There was a past study done in Scandinavia of 6,200 women with breast implants and they had a lower rate of breast cancer than that in the normal population. In 1997, there was a study from published in the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery with a similar finding of a 37 percent reduction in the incidence of breast cancer in a group of women that had been followed for over 14 years.”

Researchers note that this laboratory and clinical data is preliminary and needs more in depth and more expansive studies to confirm. Dr. Jewell adds that despite the findings it is important to note that breast cancer can still occur. “All women are advised to perform monthly breast self-examinations and have periodic breast imaging studies,” he says.

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