Suppressed natural killer cell activity in patients with silicone breast implants: reversal upon explantation

Toxicol Ind Health. 1994 May-Jun;10(3):149-54. doi: 10.1177/074823379401000304.


We have previously shown that natural killer (NK) cell activity is significantly suppressed in patients with silicone breast implants. These patients were symptomatic and the suppression of natural killer cell activity was associated with additional significant immunological abnormalities (Vojdani et al., 1992a). Our studies have recently been confirmed by Smith et al. (1994), who described natural killer cell activity suppression following exposure to silicone gel, and reversal upon removal of the gel. This study has been designed to evaluate natural killer cell activities in symptomatic women with silicone breast implants and again after explantation of the implants. Each patient served as her own control. Our findings show a marked significant increase in previously suppressed natural killer cell activity in 50% of the patients. In the other 50%, no change or suppressed NK activity was observed. These findings are compatible with recent studies in experimental animals, which show that administration of silicone reduces natural killer cell activity, and that this is reversible upon removal of the silicone. Since NK cells are important in the control of tumor cell growth, we propose here that patients with reduced NK cell activity are at a higher risk of developing cancer, a concept recently described in experimental animals (Potter et al., 1994; Salhon et al., 1994).

MeSH terms

  • Breast Implants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / physiology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / physiology
  • Silicones / adverse effects*


  • Silicones