Silicone Breast Implants and Lupus

No Clear Association

A silicone breast implant.

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In the past, there were concerns about whether silicone ​breast implants could cause lupus. The questions arose because lupus is an autoimmune disorder, and there is some evidence that silicone can cause an immune reaction in animals. However, there is no clear association between silicone breast implants and the development of lupus.

What the Science Says

Scientists began looking at this question in studies dating back to 1992. In 1998, the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences conducted an independent, unbiased review of published research about breast implants and their effects on a variety of health concerns.

One of the areas of interest in this investigation were connective tissue diseases, particularly systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis or scleroderma, dermatomyositis/polymyositis, and others.

The results were unveiled in June of 1999 in a report called "Safety of Silicone Breast Implants."

The report found that, when considered together, the epidemiological studies "do not support an association between connective tissue disease, combined or individually, or stated another way, and an elevated relative risk for these diseases, in women with silicone breast implants."

The findings were conclusive enough for the authors to say that there was no justification to continue looking for an increased incidence of connective tissue disease such as lupus in women with implants.

Only one epidemiological study included in the report found an elevated risk of connective tissue disease in women with breast implants. In that 1996 study, there was a small association of implants with combined connective tissue diseases. However, the report's authors stated that the study was flawed because it included an unrepresentative sample of women (too many women with implants compared to national figures) and relied on unverified self-reports. They concluded that this study probably overstated the risk of connective tissue disease associated with silicone breast implants.

Should You Get Your Implants Removed?

In 1992, due to concerns about ruptured implants and possible links to health problems (including lupus), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed silicone breast implants from the market. However, silicone implants became legal again in 2006, by which time most of the health concerns had been cleared up.

If you are considering having your implants removed to ease your lupus symptoms, you should know that that there is no evidence to suggest that your symptoms will decrease or increase after the procedure.

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