The book The Naked Truth About Breast Implants From Harm to Healing. Is it true that implants are toxic?

I am curious about the book The Naked Truth About Breast Implants: From Harm to Healing by Susan E. Kolb. It seems to be the only book I have found that strongly discourages breast implants. She says implants are extremely toxic and will make you very ill. Viral infections, autoimmune diseases, bacterial and fungal infections. Are her point valid? What is the likelihood of someone developing saline implant disease or any of the illnesses she claims? What are the statistics?

Doctor Answers 9

Are breast implants safe?

As the other doctors have indicated, breast implants are among the most studied medical devices on the planet. The conclusion of multiple studies done in the US, Canada, and overseas is that they are NOT toxic.
At one time it was thought there was a connection between silicone breast implants and connective-tissue (autoimmune) diseases. The population that undergoes breast implant surgery also has a higher incidence of these diseases to begin with. One must look at statistically significant studies to make valid conclusions concerning these questions. One of the best studies done was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1995. This came out of Harvard Medical School and analyzed data from the Nurses' Health Study cohort. 87,501 women were studied, and the conclusion was that there was no association between silicone breast implants and connective tissue diseases.  I am not familiar with the book you mentioned, but opinion needs to be backed by rigorous scientific studies.  Such studies have shown that breast implants are safe and effective.  That doesn't mean that they are 100% without potential complications, like any operation or medical treatment. Anyone considering breast augmentation should discuss the operation with a board certified plastic surgeon to be informed of the pros and cons.

Milwaukee Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Implants toxic?

SIliicone breast implants are probably the most investigated product ever studied by the FDA.  The research demonstrated a lack of evidence of autoimmune or toxic issues with implants.  Yes, one can get an infection but that is with any foreign body.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Are breast implants safe?

To answer your question, yes, breast implants are quite safe. The negative spin placed on breast implants by the author of your book is unfounded and unsupported by any legitimate scientific data.

Each year, in the U.S. alone, approximately 480,000 women undergo breast augmentation with placement of breast implants. That number is growing each year. These numbers allow for tremendous amounts of data to be collected and followed regarding these procedures and the implants used. Breast implants, placed by an experienced Plastic Surgeon, Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery are indeed quite safe and pose no known health risk with any certainty.

If you're interested in learning more about this procedure, schedule a consultation with a Plastic Surgeon. During your consultation, your surgeon can discuss the pros and cons of this procedure with you. With sound information and education, you can then decide whether or not breast augmentation is right for you. Good luck!

Jonathan R. Fugo, DO
Newburgh Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Breast implants toxic?

Dr. Kolb's views about breast implants are not supported by any scientific data and fortunately not shared by anyone with an objective and rational point of view. Dr. Kolb's fear mongering serves as a grave disservice to women, frightening patients of medical devices that are extraordinarily safe. 

Michael B. Tantillo, MD
Boston Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Breast implants and disease

The overwhelming majority of Plastic surgeons (myself included), the American Society of Plastic Surgery, and the FDA all disagree with Dr. Kolb's position on breast implants. My personal experience  of over 20 years with silicone gel implants has been overwhelmingly positive. Ultimately, having implant surgery is a personal decision and you should seek out informed opinions in your area.Good luck!

Marcel Daniels, MD
Long Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Are breast implants toxic?

The answer to your question is - absolutely not! Breast implants - both saline and silicon - were studied extensively in many independent studies and found to be completely safe. I am glad you asked about statistics - the numbers are more convincing and speak for themselves. The implants may not be for everybody from medical or aesthetic stand point but again, they are absolutely safe.

Boris Mordkovich, MD
Englewood Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Silicone Breast Implants are Not Toxic

Are Silicone Implants Toxic?

I think you have to answer this question in two ways:

  1. First, to address the perceived silicone toxicity by the public/patients which has not been substantiated by scientific studies and would be rare if it occurred at all.
  2. Secondly you have to address if they have ever been proven to be toxic.
The first question is easy to answer: there is no known toxicity from silicone gel breast implants. It has been studied by the FDA for more than three decades to establish its safety. Silicone is the most common material used in medical devices/implants. Examples include shunts that go from the brain to the abdomen (for hydrocephalus) which are left in for a lifetime, artificial finger joints, syringes, IVs, catheters (including ones that go next to the heart), surrounding pacemakers, and even oral anti-gas tablets.
The one possible exception may by the PIP implant made in France (generally not available in the USA). Most of the concerns about the PIP implant were about the use of non-medical silicone and manufacturing problems, and do not relate to implants used in the United States by board-certified plastic surgeons. This is not to say that breast implants, like any implant, can have problems; they may have to be removed and are not meant to last a life time. Common reasons for replacement include: capsular contracture, rupture, infection, change in breast size, and pain—but not for toxicity.
To answer the perceived toxicity of Silicone by the general public—this is quite a different matter.
Breast implants have been around since the 1960s. About 15 years ago Connie Chung ran an exposé, Face to Face with Connie Chung, claiming silicone implants were responsible for different health problems. This led to lawsuits, a huge windfall for lawyers, and the subsequent ban on silicone implants for first-time breast augmentation patients went into effect. They were always available for breast reconstruction (e.g. after mastectomy) and replacement of existing silicone breasts. Also, please note that saline implants are still covered by a silicone envelope.
Soon after, a ban on silicone implant use became worldwide. This lasted for years until more than 100 clinical studies showed that breast implants aren’t related to cancer, lupus, scleroderma, other connective tissue diseases, or the host of other problems they were accused of causing.
June 1999, The Institute of Medicine released a 400-page report prepared by an independent committee of 13 scientists. They concluded that although silicone breast implants may be responsible for localized problems such as hardening or scarring of breast tissue, implants do not cause any major diseases such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
The Institute of Medicine is part of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization.
Eventually, a federal judge dismissed/rejected the lawsuits, declaring them junk science and ended for the most part the barrage of lawsuits. This led to the present reintroduction of silicone implants years ago and their approval by the FDA. Interestingly enough, most of the rest of the world reintroduced them many years prior to the United States.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 154 reviews

Are Breast implants safe?

Breast implants are safe.  Saline and Silcone implants both they are one of the most studied medical devices.  There can be complications with the surgery.  But multiple studies have shown no toxicity of implants and no connection to auto immune disease.  Complications can occur from surgery such as infection, hematoma and capsular contracture but are rare.  There are multiple medical studies documenting the safety of implants.  It is true that some patients with implants develop autoimmune or other diseases but study after study has shown the implants are not the cause.  

Raymond Jean, MD
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

Is it true that implants are toxic?

Breast implants are among the most tested of medical devices. No other medical device has been studied to the extent that breast implants have. Extensive studies of tens of thousands of women with breast implants have shown that both saline and silicone implants are safe. They do not produce a higher rate of cancer or autoimmune disease. After vigorous evaluation by the FDA, both are approved for cosmetic and reconstructive usage.

The majority of patients having breast augmentations are very pleased with their results. No one should enter into that procedure with the idea that the implants will last forever or that they may never need another breast surgery. There are a variety of reasons why a woman would have a secondary procedure: to alter the size of the implants as the patient ages and the size and shape of the breast naturally change, to correct the effects of pregnancy on the breasts, weight fluctuation, the implant can form a capsular contraction around it which produces a hardening, or the implant may leak. No one can guarantee the life cycle of an implant.

Robert Singer, MD FACS

La Jolla, California

Robert Singer, MD
La Jolla Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.