Breast implants "no risk to life"
Having reconstructive surgery does not reduce the life expectancy of women with breast cancer, research suggests.
In fact women who had breast implants after a mastectomy had a lower risk of dying from cancer, the study involving 5,000 patients over 12 years found.
The study, carried out by the Northern California Cancer Center, is reported in the journal Breast Cancer Research.
Previous studies have suggested breast implants might make it harder for doctors to interpret scans.
However, scientists found no evidence that the problems led to cancer reaching a more advanced stage before it was picked up.
Neither did breast augmentation appear to increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
The latest study provides further reassurance that the long-term effects of breast implants are favourable.
Out of the 21% of women in the study who had had an implant after a mastectomy for a breast tumor, there was a 12.4% risk of death from the cancer returning.
In comparison, the risk was 19.7% among the women without implants.
The better life expectancy among the women with implants persisted even when the researchers controlled for factors such as the woman's age and medical history.
They said: "Certainly, further research is needed to explain this survival differential in women with breast implants and those without."
It might be that implants boost self-esteem, which could improve survival, they said.
Also, having an implant might mean that the woman has more medical check ups.
Surgeons may not recommend implants to women with health conditions, such as obesity or smoking, that may contribute to post-operative complications, they said.
Some 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.
Professor Alan Ashworth of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: "This study adds to the current research suggesting that breast implants do not increase the risk of breast cancer and we would welcome further research which explains the difference in mortality rates.
"However, implants can make it harder to see breast tissue on mammograms, so when being screened it is important that the radiographer is aware if you have breast implants.
"The option of reconstruction is very important for women undergoing a mastectomy and they also should receive advice about the various prosthetics available and have the opportunity to see a realistic portrayal of the outcome."
Laura Trapani, Information Nurse at Breast Cancer Care, said: "Women can now make a more informed choice regarding implants."
Source: BBC News