Breast Implants, Hormone Therapy, and Cancer Risk

It is common for many transgender, nonbinary, and gender diverse folks to consider hormone replacement therapy and gender affirming surgery as part of their journey. However, there are important risks to consider when pursuing any type of medical therapy or surgery. Here we provide some informative insight into the cancer risk associated with breast implants and hormone replacement therapy. We will also share the current guidelines for breast cancer screening for transgender women, so you can make informed decisions about your health.

Many researchers and clinicians wonder how breast implants may affect the risk of breast cancer. So far, there is little evidence linking saline or silicone breast implants to increased risk of most types of typical breast cancer.  However, there are some reports of a rare cancer linked to breast implants. This is not breast cancer, but a type of lymphoma (cancer of the lymph system) called ALCL.  More research is being done to figure out why this rare type of lymphoma has an association with some types of breast implants, especially textured implants.

The risk of breast cancer is low for people transgender women, with or without breast implants, accounting for only 2% of all diagnoses. Although it is not known how hormone therapy might affect this figure, the risk is thought to be very low.

Hormone Therapy and Cancer Risk

There is no current research linking breast implants to increased risk of breast cancer, but there is some evidence that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may increase your risk.

Studies have shown that HRT can increase cancer risk, so it is recommended that if you are over the age of 50 and have been undergoing HRT for 5 or more years that you undergo screening mammography every 2 years.

The best defense against breast cancer is early detection. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat.

If you are concerned about your risk for breast cancer, you can talk with your primary care physician to discuss a preventative care strategy with you.

Breast Implants and Mammograms

Breast implants are an important consideration during breast cancer screenings. When getting a mammogram, let the technician know in advance that you have implants.

In some cases, it may not be possible to perform a traditional mammogram, especially for those with implants placed directly behind the breast tissue (instead of beneath the chest muscle). In these instances, an MRI may be recommended to screen for breast cancer.