Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

U.S. FDA Investigates Link Between a Rare Cancer Type and Breast Implants

What is anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL)?

In March 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an update about a rare type of cancer that has been reported in people with breast implants. The cancer is called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL, and is a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the cells that make up the immune system). ALCL itself is a rare cancer that can affect both men and women. When it is not associated with breast implants, ALCL can develop in the skin, in the lymph nodes, or in organs throughout the body. ALCL is not a type of breast cancer. Women with breast implants appear to have a very small increased risk for developing this rare tumor in the breast tissues surrounding the implant.

Statistics on breast implant-associated ALCL

To understand just how rare this type of cancer is, it is important to look at some statistics. In the U.S., between 1998 and 2009, about 4 million breast implant surgeries were performed. Statistics from the US National Cancer Institute reveal that about one in 500,000 women is diagnosed with ALCL in the United States every year, while ALCL in the breast is even less common. Only around three out of 100 million women per year in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALCL in the breast. As of February 2017, the FDA had received a total 359 reports of breast-implant associated ALCL (BIA-ALCL), including nine deaths due to the condition.

What causes breast implant-associated ALCL?

BIA-ALCL has been described in women who underwent breast implantation for both reconstruction after cancer surgery and augmentation (cosmetic enlargement). ALCL is a cancer of the T lymphocytes of the immune system, whereas most lymphomas that arise in the breast in people without implants are of the B lymphocyte type. The exact reason for the slight increase in this rare cancer in women with breast implants is still not understood. The cancer has been reported more often in those with implants that have a textured outer shell than in those with implants that have a smooth outer shell, but the meaning of this association is not clear.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/29/2017

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors