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Silicone Breast Implants Do Not Cause Disease, Experts Say

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The analysis also could not draw firm conclusions about any connection between ruptures or leakage of the implants and connective-tissue diseases, since many of the studies did not provide adequate information on these occurrences. Some researchers say that the outer shell of the implants, not just the silicone gel inside, may be making women sick.

The controversy over the implants is unlikely to end here. Supporters of women who believe implants have made them ill say that it's not possible to conclude there is no connection between the implants and these diseases based on published scientific studies -- some of which were financed by implant manufacturers.

Sidney Wolfe, MD, medical director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group and one of the first to petition the FDA in the late 1980s to ban silicone implants, tells WebMD that the latest analysis is interesting, but doesn't add much to previous findings.

"There has not yet been a properly designed and large enough study to answer the question of whether there is a significantly increased risk of [immune-system] disease in women with breast implants," Wolfe says. He says analyses such as Janowsky's are interesting, but are simply rehashing old information, some of which was based on studies that were inadequate to begin with.

Wolfe says that while he is not convinced silicone implants cause immune-system or other diseases, he believes there are enough questions about their effects that the investigations must continue. The National Cancer Institute is conducting a large-scale study of women who developed breast cancer after getting implants, and Wolfe says its results should provide more answers.

Vital Information:

  • According to an analysis of 20 published studies on silicone breast implants, there seems to be no association between the implants and diseases of the immune system or connective tissue.
  • Silicone breast implants were banned in 1992, and manufacturers of the devices have settled lawsuits with women who became ill.
  • The analysis did not examine why the women had breast implants, whether for cosmetic or reconstructive reasons, and could not determine a possible relationship between rupture or leakage and serious health problems.
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