Background: The postulated relation between silicone breast implants and the risk of connective-tissue and autoimmune diseases has generated intense medical and legal interest during the past decade. The salience of the issue persists, despite the fact that a great deal of research has been conducted on this subject. To provide a stronger quantitative basis for addressing the postulated relation, we applied several techniques of meta-analysis that combine, compare, and summarize the results of existing relevant studies.
Methods: We searched data bases and reviewed citations in relevant articles to identify studies that met prestated inclusion criteria. Nine cohort studies, nine case-control studies, and two cross-sectional studies were included in our meta-analyses. We conducted meta-analyses of the results of these studies, both with and without adjustment for confounding factors, and a separate analysis restricted to studies of silicone-gel-filled breast implants. Finally, we estimated the annual number of new cases of connective-tissue disease that could be attributed to breast implants.
Results: There was no evidence that breast implants were associated with a significant increase in the summary adjusted relative risk of individual connective-tissue diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, 1.04 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.72 to 1.51]; systemic lupus erythematosus, 0.65 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.35 to 1.23]; scleroderma or systemic sclerosis, 1.01 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.59 to 1.73]; and Sjögren's syndrome, 1.42 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.65 to 3.11]); all definite connective-tissue diseases combined (0.80; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.62 to 1.04); or other autoimmune or rheumatic conditions (0.96; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.74 to 1.25). Nor was there evidence of significantly increased risk in the unadjusted analyses or in the analysis restricted to silicone-gel-filled implants.
Conclusions: On the basis of our meta-analyses, there was no evidence of an association between breast implants in general, or silicone-gel-filled breast implants specifically, and any of the individual connective-tissue diseases, all definite connective-tissue diseases combined, or other autoimmune or rheumatic conditions. From a public health perspective, breast implants appear to have a minimal effect on the number of women in whom connective-tissue diseases develop, and the elimination of implants would not be likely to reduce the incidence of connective-tissue diseases.