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February 07, 2019

FDA warns of rare cancer linked to breast implants

But it's not breast cancer, per se, health officials say

Illness Women's Health
surgery unsplash Piron Guillaume/Unsplash

Federal health officials warn doctors and other health professionals to be on the lookout for a rare cancer linked to breast implants.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration said there are now 457 women in the United States diagnosed with breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), up from 414 cases since the last report. There have been more than 600 cases of this rare cancer of the immune system reported worldwide and 16 women have died, nine of whom lived in the United States, NBC News reports.

In suspected cases, the FDA recommends laboratory testing to confirm or rule out of the disease. It’s the first time regulators have issued such a warning to doctors other than plastic surgeons, the statement reads.

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The illness is slow-growing and treatable when it's detected early, CNN reports. 

To add some context, this report comes one day before French regulatory authorities are scheduled to meet to discuss the safety of textured implants, which are used in cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries and account for 85 percent of the French market, NBC explains.

The majority of ALCL cases have been linked to the textured devices, and in December, France’s National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) asked Allergan to recall its textured implants after the agency pulled its safety approval.

It’s worth noting that the disease is not breast cancer, but usually forms in the scar tissue that forms around implants, TIME reports. Regulators said they have identified 450 likely cases of the cancer since 2010 — a relatively small number considering 400,000 U.S. women receive implants annually. 

Those who have breast implants should monitor them for any changes and get routine screenings such as mammograms or MRIs, the statement warns.

The FDA is meeting next month to review safety of all breast implants, according to NBC.

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