Breast reconstruction with implants after mastectomy doesn't hurt survival chances

December 22, 2004

Breast implants after mastectomy to treat breast cancer do not reduce the long-term survival of patients, reveals the first study on the long-term effects of breast implants, published today in Breast Cancer Research.

Previous studies have shown that breast implants do not have adverse health effects for cancer patients in the short term, but no representative study has addressed the question in the long term.

Gem Le from the Northern California Cancer Centre and colleagues analysed data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Breast Implants Surveillance Study, carried out in Iowa, the San Francisco area and the Seattle area. Information from more than 4,000 women under age 65 and diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer was collected during the study. All of the women had been treated with mastectomy and followed over a period of about 12 years after their cancer diagnosis.

The analysis revealed that, out of the 21% of women who had had an implant after mastectomy for breast cancer, there was a 12.4% mortality rate due to breast cancer, compared with 19.7% in women without an implant. The women who had an implant were more likely to be younger and of non-Hispanic white ethnicity than women who had no implant. After adjusting for these and other clinical and sociodemographic factors in their analysis, the authors concluded that breast cancer mortality in patients with breast implants is about half that of patients without implants.

"Certainly, further research is needed to explain this survival differential in women with breast implants and those without, by examining potentially explanatory factors such as socioeconomic status, comorbidity, smoking, or other lifestyle factors," the authors wrote.

Breast implants may boost the morale and self-esteem of breast cancer patients, which could improve survival. Implants might have other indirect consequences, such as leading to better medical care and follow-up of women with implants. Studies have suggested that breast implants may also stimulate the immune system and reduce blood flow to the breast, thereby impairing cell and tumour growth.
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BioMed Central

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