Back in 2011, the FDA identified a possible association between breast implants and the development of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The FDA reports suggest that implants with a textured surface are more likely to be associated with the cancer than smooth implants-of the 231 reports that contained information about the implant's surface, 203 were reported to be textured implants, while 28 were reported to be smooth.
"At that time, the FDA knew of so few cases of this disease that it was not possible to determine what factors increased the risk", the agency said.
The agency said it is continuing to collect and evaluate data on cases of lymphoma linked to breast implants, but warned that current data on fill and surface type are limited.
As of February 1, the agency had received more than 350 reports of this cancer linked to breast implants, including nine cases of patients who died from the cancer.
In most cases, the cancer was found during surgery to remove or replace an implant after the women reported pain, lumps and swelling around it.
Since then, the Plastic Surgery Foundation has launched a reporting system specifically for doctors to report cases of the disease in implant patients. While that case was a woman with saline-filled implants, the FDA says the filling, be it saline (salt water) or silicone, doesn't seem to make much of a difference, although no well-designed studies have yet been conducted to settle tha issue. Less than 10 patients are diagnosed with breast implant-associated ALCL annually.
The cancer can take about 10 years to develop on average after the implant first goes in and usually stays in the area right around the implant, World Health Organization researchers reported last year in the journal Blood.
One of their common characteristics is the outer silicone shell, present in either case, but they differ in material and consistency, with silicone implants offering a more natural look and feel.
The FDA has a breast implants website with more details.
Although the choice between the two usually depends on breast anatomy and body type, which influence cosmetic results, saline implants are generally considered to be the safer option. Surgeons should consider the possibility of developing lymphoma after several years after the implant surgery. If you already have breast implants, there is no need to change your routine medical care and follow-up.
If you have silicone gel-filled breast implants, get periodic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect ruptures as recommended by your health care provider.