Health Canada Is Warning Of Cancer Risk Associated With Breast Implants After A Concerning Increase In Reported Incidents

In a statement released yesterday, Health Canada announced that it is reviewing cancer risks associated with breast implants after "an increase in reports of Canadian cases." That increase is likely due to an increase in awareness rather than any new dangers.

While the federal agency had initially labelled cancer risk as "low," mounting reports, 44 in total, have prompted officials to revisit these findings. Health Canada has already determined that cancer, specifically anaplastic large cell lymphoma, is a risk associated with implants. This new investigation will determine the severity of that risk.

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TL;DR Health Canada is reviewing cancer risks associated with breast implants after an increase in reported cases. The agency has also updated its recommendations for Canadians with implants.

According to the statement, anaplastic large cell lymphoma (or BIA-ALCL) "is a serious but rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (a cancer that affects the immune system) that may develop many months or years after a breast implant procedure. It is not a cancer of the breast tissue."

In the meantime, Health Canada is asking Canadians with breast implants to perform self-examinations, report any changes, and schedule regular check-ups with healthcare professionals.

"Removal [of] breast implants, even if you do not have any signs or symptoms suggesting BIA-ALCL, is an option best discussed between you and your healthcare professional," the statement continues.

This is a striking difference from the recommendation in the 2017 report, which states that "removal of breast implants is not recommended if you do not have any signs or symptoms suggestive of BIA-ALCL."

Also noticeably absent from the 2019 statement is any mention of collaboration with breast implant manufacturers, with whom Health Canada worked to compile the 2017 finding.

The agency is now instead "working with its international counterparts to gather information to inform any regulatory actions." This may signal a renewed willingness to more strictly control implant manufacturing.

The agency has also posted an advisory on its Recalls and Safety Alerts page to warn consumers as the investigation continues.

The final report is likely to be released in spring 2019.

Stay tuned.