Cosmetic breast implants may cut the survival odds of women later diagnosed with breast cancer, according to a new review of research findings published in the British Medical Journal.
But the Canadian scientists who conducted the analysis urged that the results be interpreted “with caution” since some of the studies reviewed did not consider other potential “confounding” factors that may be at work. They called for more research into the long-term health effects of breast implants to settle the issue.
“Further investigations are warranted into the long-term effects of cosmetic breast implants on the detection and prognosis of breast cancer, adjusting for potential confounders,” they concluded.
Breast implants have become increasingly popular, but some studies have suggested they can make it more difficult to detect cancer at an early stage because they create shadows on mammograms that can obscure some tissue.
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The Canadians researchers sought to determine whether the stage at which breast cancer is diagnosed — and survival rates — differed between women with and without cosmetic breast implants.
They reviewed 12 studies published since 1993 and found that women with implants had a 26 percent increased risk of being diagnosed at a later stage of breast cancer — when it is harder to treat — than those without them. They also analyzed five other studies and found that women with implants had a 38 percent greater risk of death from breast cancer than those without.
The researchers warned that the findings “should be interpreted with caution as some studies included in the meta-analysis on survival did not adjust for potential confounders.”
But they added: “The accumulating evidence suggests that women with cosmetic breast implants who develop breast cancer have an increased risk of being diagnosed as having non-localized breast tumors more frequently than do women with breast cancer who do not have implants.” In addition, the evidence suggests implants “adversely affect breast cancer specific survival following the diagnosis of such disease.”
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