Do Breast Implants Cause Cancer?

Research suggests a link to an uncommon type of lymphatic cancer

If you have breast implants or are thinking of getting them, you may have heard that they cause cancer. Research has linked some breast implants to specific types of cancer, but this connection is very rare.

There is no link between breast implants currently on the market and cancer. Historically textured implants have had a higher positive cancer rate than smooth implants.

Worldwide, surgeons place more than 1 million breast implants annually, and only around 1,100 people with breast implants have developed a rare type of cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). The Allergan textured implants associated with this type of cancer have been taken off the market.

Very few people have developed other types of cancers from breast implants.

This article will review the link between breast implants and cancer, present the research that supports this link, and interpret the risks of breast implants based on present knowledge.

Surgical team performing breast implant surgery

stefanamer / Getty Images

What’s the Link Between Breast Implants and Cancer?

The only type of cancer substantially linked to breast implants is breast implant–associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

This cancer is not breast cancer. It is a cancer of white blood cells called T cells that are part of the immune system. It is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The first cases of this cancer were identified in the 1990s.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first linked it to breast implants in 2011. At that time, there were so few cases BIA-ALCL and so little information on the implants used that the agency couldn't significantly link it to any specific implant or features of implants until years later. 

Cancerous T cells in BIA-ALCL live in the scar tissue and fluid near the implant. Sometimes these T cells spread to other parts of the body. These cancers develop years after the implant surgery, when the incisions have healed. They grow in the scar tissue called the capsule. 

In September 2022, the FDA warned that they had received reports of other cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma (cancer that develops from cells that line many of the body's organs) and other lymphomas (white blood cell cancers), that can develop in the scar tissue around breast implants.

Prevalence and Risks

All of the cancers associated with breast implants are rare. Counts include:

  • BIA-ALCL: The FDA’s number from 2022 was 1,130 reports of BIA-ALCL and 59 deaths.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Fewer than 20 total cases of squamous cell carcinoma related to breast implants have been reported to the FDA.
  • Other lymphomas: The FDA has found fewer than 30 cases of other lymphomas in the capsule around the breast implant.

Research has linked many cases of BIA-ALCL to a specific type of recalled breast implant made by Allergan. 

Cases of BIA-ALCL by Breast Implant Manufacturer.
Manufacturer Number of cases Percent of cases
Allergan 953 84
Mentor 67 6
Sientra 20 2
Other manufacturer 10 1
Unknown manufacturer 80 7
A total of 1,130 reports of BIA-ALCL have been reported to the FDA. The table below breaks the cases down by manufacturer of the implant. The presence of a manufacturer on this list does not mean that all implants from that manufacturer are linked to BIA-ALCL. The only breast implants that have been associated with an increased risk of cases of BIA-ALCL are the BIOCELL line from Allergan, which was removed from the market in 2019.

Most people with BIA-ALCL have a good prognosis. Treatment includes:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Radiation

Type of Implants: Knowns vs. Unknowns

There are four basic types of breast implants. The filling of the breast implant is either saline (salt water) or silicone gel. The implant's surface is silicone, which can either be textured or smooth. Here's what is known about the cancer risk of each type:

  • Silicone vs. saline: BIA-ALCL risk does not seem affected by the fill of the breast implant, though data is limited. No other lymphomas or SCCs are not associated with any specific implant fill.
  • Rough vs. smooth: BIA-ALCL does seem to occur more frequently with textured implants, specifically the macro-textured implants created by Allergan. No other lymphomas or SCCs are associated with any specific implant texture.
Cases of BIA-ALCL by Implant Surface
Implant surface Number of cases Percent of cases
Textured 798 71
Smooth 37 3
Not specified 295 26
Data from the FDA updated April 2022 indicates that BIA-ALCL is more common in people with textured implants than those with smooth implants.
Cases of BIA-ALCL by Implant Fill
Implant fill Number of cases Percent of cases
Silicone 728 64
Saline 304 27
Not specified 98 9
Data from the FDA updated April 2022 indicates that BIA-ALCL seems to be slightly more common in people with silicone-filled implants, though this isn’t backed by a large study. According to the FDA, not enough data is available to firmly determine a link between​​h silicone-filled breast implants and an increased risk of BIA-ALCL.

The breast implants and expanders that the FDA recalled in 2019 were limited to Allergan’s BIOCELL textured breast implant products, as follows:

  • Natrelle saline-filled breast implants
  • Natrelle silicone-filled breast implants 
  • Natrelle Inspira silicone-filled breast implants
  • Natrelle 410 highly cohesive anatomically shaped silicone-filled breast implants
  • Natrelle 133 plus tissue expanders
  • Natrelle 133 tissue expanders with suture tabs

As for other types of cancers, researchers have found no links to any specific types of breast implants. Cancers have developed in people with both textured and smooth breast implants and both saline and silicone breast implants. Still, the FDA is collecting more data to try to identify the link.

Where the FDA Stands

Breast-implant-associated cancers are rare. The FDA is continuing to collect and evaluate information about BIA-ALCL and other cancers in individuals with breast implants and who have used tissue expanders. As the FDA gathers more information, it may ask manufacturers to recall other breast implants or tissue expanders.

Is Implant Removal Advised?

There are still many people with recalled breast implants in their bodies. Unless you have symptoms of BIA-ALCL, the FDA does not recommend removing the implant.

If you have breast implants, continue your regular healthcare provider visits and follow-ups. Make sure your healthcare provider knows that you have implants, and let them know the type and brand if you know that. Notify them if you notice any changes in your breasts or have concerns about your implants.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer With Implants 

If you have breast implants and are worried about developing BIA-ALCL, keep an eye out for the following symptoms, including years after getting the implant:

  • Swelling that doesn't go away
  • Pain around the breast implant
  • A lump or mass near the implant
  • Skin changes: Redness
  • Fluid collecting around the implant

If you have implants and are worried about developing breast cancer, know that it is no more common in people with implants than in those who don't have implants. Get regular screening mammograms (as detailed below), and watch for these common symptoms of breast cancer:

  • A lump in the breast or armpit doesn't go away.
  • Part of the breast thickens, swells, or changes shape.
  • The breast skin gets irritated or dimpled.
  • The skin around the nipple becomes red or flaky.
  • The nipple starts pulling in or hurting.
  • Bloody or other odd nipple discharge (other than breast milk) forms.
  • There is breast pain.

Routine Screening 

Most people with breast implants should get regular screening for breast cancer. This screening may be a mammogram, breast ultrasound, or breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). People with breast implants who have had all of their breast tissue removed during a bilateral mastectomy no longer need to get screening mammograms.

You may still need to get routine mammograms if you’ve had:

  • Breast-conserving surgery
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy
  • A mastectomy on only one breast

Transgender women or males with breast implants should consult a healthcare provider to determine what screening is recommended.

Mammograms are more difficult to perform on people with breast implants. There’s a risk that the implant could break, and it’s harder to get good images of the breast tissue. Make sure you tell your mammogram technician that you have implants when you make the appointment. 

Your technician needs to be skilled in mammography and will need to get two more pictures of each breast than is customary. The additional images give a healthcare provider a better view of the breast but can be more uncomfortable than other images since the technician has to pull the breast tissue away from the implant. 


People with breast implants have developed rare types of cancer. The most significant is breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It is not breast cancer but a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a white blood cell cancer. 

Research linked BIA-ALCL to macro-textured breast implants made by Allergan. The company took them off the market in 2019. These implants are not common in the United States. 

BIA-ALCL has been found in people with other textured implants. The cases are so few that there isn’t a reason to recall any other implants, according to the FDA. Only about 1,130 cases and 59 deaths from BIA-ALCL have been reported.

If you have the recalled implants, you do not need to get them taken out, but watch for symptoms of BIA-ALCL and talk to your healthcare provider. Other lymphomas and squamous cell cancers have been found in the scar tissue around breast implants, though these are very rare.

A Word From Verywell 

If you have breast implants, know that this is a common procedure and that most people with implants don’t develop cancers related to their implants. If you currently have the recalled implants, you do not need to have them removed. In fact, the FDA advises against removing them.

Talk to your healthcare provider and plastic surgeon, and watch for any symptoms of BIA-ALCL. In the rare case that you develop this cancer, know that it is easily treatable, especially if caught early. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many people with breast implants get cancer?

    Since the FDA discovered the link between anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) and breast implants in 1997, it has found 1,130 reports of ALCL worldwide. There have been 59 deaths.

    In 2022, the FDA announced that some people with breast implants develop other lymphomas and a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. The FDA has only found a few dozen cases of these cancers.

    These cancers are very rare, especially since surgeons place millions of breast implants worldwide yearly.

  • Are textured breast implants still safe?

    Textured breast implants are relatively safe. Any implant has risks of additional surgeries or the development of scar tissue and other issues. Cancer rarely develops around a breast implant.

    Research has linked some textured implants to breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. The manufacturer (Allergan) voluntarily recalled these macro-textured implants.

    The FDA is actively monitoring reports of BIA-ALCL to ensure that any other implant linked to this rare disease is also removed from the market.

  • Why did the FDA ban some kinds of breast implants?

    In July 2019, the FDA requested the recall of a specific type of textured breast implant from Allergan. They were associated with a rare white blood cell cancer that develops around the implant (BIA-ALCL). The manufacturer removed these implants from the market.

    In the 90s, the FDA removed silicone implants from the U.S. market after claims that they leaked and caused connective tissue disorders, cancers, and autoimmune diseases. Silicone implants made their way back to the market by the 2000s after extensive testing confirmed their safety.

  • Can you get breast implants after a mastectomy?

    You can get breast implants after breast-removal surgery (mastectomy). Sometimes, surgeons will insert implants during the same surgery as the mastectomy. Other times, they’ll insert tissue expanders during the initial surgery.

    A healthcare provider slowly fills the tissue expanders to stretch the skin and other tissue of the breast. A surgeon then swaps the expander for a breast implant during a second surgery. Sometimes the healthcare provider wants you to heal and undergo radiation treatment before getting implants or placing tissue expanders.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food and Drug Administration. Questions and answers about breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

  2. Jalalabadi F, Doval AF, Neese V, Andrews E, Spiegel AJ. Breast implant utilization trends in USA versus Europe and the impact of BIA-ALCL publications. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2021;9(3):e3449. doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000003449

  3. Food and Drug Administration. Medical device reports of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

  4. Food and Drug Administration. FDA takes action to protect patients from risk of certain textured breast implants; requests Allergan voluntarily recall certain breast implants and tissue expanders from market.

  5. Food and Drug Administration. Breast implants: reports of squamous cell carcinoma and various lymphomas in capsule around implants: FDA safety communication.

  6. Food and Drug Administration. Breast Implants: Reports of Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Various Lymphomas in Capsule Around Implants: FDA Safety Communication 

  7. American Cancer Society. Breast implant recall: what you need to know.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

  9. American Cancer Society. Mammograms for women with breast implants

  10. Fenway Health. Radiology.

  11. Food and Drug Administration. Update on the safety of silicone gel-filled breast implants (2011) - executive summary.

  12. American Cancer Society. Breast reconstruction using implants.

By Jennifer Welsh
Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor with over ten years of experience under her belt. She’s previously worked and written for WIRED Science, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, LiveScience, and Business Insider.