Are breast implants worth the cancer and autoimmune risks?

Here’s a question for you women:

How far would you go to look good? I mean, to what lengths would you go to reshape your body so that it more closely matches the “ideal” women’s figure?

Would you mind being inconvenienced or uncomfortable for a few days or a week? How do you feel about pain?

And surgery? Would you be willing to go that far for your looks?

Many of you are still with me. Now, how about this.

How about cancer?

Would you be willing to risk developing cancer in order to improve your figure?

Sounds crazy, right?

Except that, in 2015, almost 300,000 women underwent a procedure that for the past twenty years has been linked with a rare form of cancer.

Of course, many women opt for this procedure as a part of reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy or other breast cancer surgery. Still, the dangers are the same.

Breast augmentation: Improving on Mother Nature?

Breast augmentation, or mammoplasty, is a procedure meant to increase the size, shape or fullness of a woman’s breast.

A surgeon places a breast implant under the chest muscles or breast tissue.

There are three main types of breast implants:

Saline implants. These implants are filled with sterile saline (salt water) solution, held within a silicone shell. If the implant should leak, the saline solution will be absorbed and expelled by the body naturally.

Silicon gel-filled implants. These consist of a silicone outer shell filled with silicone gel. If one of these leaks, the gel could escape into the “pocket” of tissue that holds the implant in place.

Since silicone is an artificial substance, the health implications of its invasion into the body are far from clear.

Possible complications from silicone “unclear”

In the early 1990s, public concern about the health risks of silicone breast implants caused the FDA to ban them, pending further research. These health risks included cancer, connective tissue disease, and autoimmune disorders.

In 2006, the FDA approved silicone gel-filled implants from two manufacturers, Allergan and Mentor Corporation, requiring the manufacturers to conduct large studies to monitor long-term health and safety outcomes of their products.

The researchers found that compared to women in the general population, women with silicone implants were:

  • 8 times more likely to be diagnosed with Sjögren syndrome, an autoimmune disorder characterized by dry eyes and a dry mouth
  • 7 times more likely to be diagnosed with scleroderma, a group of autoimmune diseases that cause the skin and connective tissues to become hard and tighten
  • nearly 6 times more likely to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis
  • nearly 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer
  • more than twice as likely to have a pregnancy end in stillbirth

Compared to women with saline implants, women with silicone implants were almost twice as likely to experience capsular contracture (scarring around the implant).

Connection to a rare cancer

In 2011, the FDA found a possible link between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare form of cancer.

ALCL is not breast cancer, but rather a fast-growing lymph node cancer (lymphoma). It can also appear on the skin surrounding the site of the implant. The FDA says that ALCL is “curable” with aggressive radiation, chemotherapy or surgery.

About one in 500,000 women are diagnosed with ALCL in the United States each year. This begs the question, is having shapely breasts worth the risk of being that one woman?

If you already have breast implants

If you have breast implants and become ill, or experience symptoms of infection (fatigue, fever, swelling, redness), see your doctor immediately.

Other possible complications to be aware of are:

Autoimmune disorders. Any foreign substance in the body can cause an autoimmune reaction. If this turns out to be the case for you, removal of the implants may help. So will natural detoxification treatments.

Breast cancer. Breast implants can obstruct the early detection of breast cancer. And, to date, the jury is still out on silicone as a cancer-causing chemical.

Raynaud’s syndrome. Blood circulation is restricted by narrowing of small arteries, causing coldness and numbness of the hands and feet. It occurs more often in women who have breast implants.


  1. What You Need to Know About Breast Implants — National Center for Health Research
  2. Breast implants may cause rare cancer — The Chart – Blogs
  3. FDA reports additional cases of cancer linked to breast implants — Channel3000
  4. Risks of Breast Implants — U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  5. Silicone breast implants linked to increased risk of some rare harms — Wolters Kluwer Health
Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.