Silicone manufacturers maintain that their products are safe and claim there is no evidence that the implants cause any health problems. Research on the safety of silicone tells a different story. When researching the safety of silicone breast implants a while back I ran across a very interesting article in a medical journal. The article did not have anything to with implants but brought up an interesting fact. The article actually described a 12 year old girl with a silicone drainage tube in her brain. The patient subsequently developed antibodies to the silicone drainage tube. The reason this is so important is that it shows us two things. First of all, the focus of safety and side effects have been on the liquid silicone in the implants, which start leaking from the implants right after they are implanted. They do not need to rupture to leak. It was fond that the liquid silicone migrates through the bag in to the body. This case though shows us that not only does the body react to the migrating liquid silicone, but also to the solid silicone bag of the implant. The antibodies produced against the silicone can then tag healthy tissue for destruction in a process known as autoimmunity.
Contrary to what we are taught in medicine, antibodies are not always specific to their target. Antibodies have different levels of specificity. High affinity antibodies are more specific to their target, and are the primary form of antibodies produced by a healthy immune system. Low affinity antibodies are less specific to nonspecific, and are the primary antibody produced in autoimmune disorders. Because low affinity antibodies are nonspecific to their target they can inadvertently tag tissues for destruction by white blood cells since the cells can share “markers” with the antigens the antibodies are supposed to target.
Understanding the above concept helps us to understand how silicone creates connective tissue disorders. Low affinity antibodies targeting silicone can mistake connective tissues, which contain silicon, with the silicone the antibodies are supposed to target.
Not every woman with breast implants will develop connective tissue disorders or other problems though. The reason is that the production of low affinity antibodies is not regulated by the presence of an antigen, but rather is due to the level of adrenal function. The adrenal glands produce hormones known as corticosteroids that modulate our immune responses. When the adrenal glands are healthy they produce sufficient levels of the corticosteroids for the production of high affinity antibodies. If the adrenal glands become suppressed from conditions such as Prednisone use, chronic stress, or stimulant abuse the lowered levels of corticosteroids can lead to a higher production of low affinity antibodies. This increases the risk of connective tissue disorders.
It is also possible that anti-silicone antibodies play a role in the failure of implants. The average lifespan of an implant is around 12 years. The implants are not being exposed to ultraviolet light or other external factors that can cause silicone deterioration. Therefore, it should be considered that the immune system’s assault on the silicone could play a role in the walls of the bag weakening and eventually rupturing.
Liquid silicone does pose more of a problem than solid silicone though. Once liquid silicone leaks in to the body the silicone migrates in to various tissues making it impossible to completely remove. There is even some concern that liquid silicone might be able to migrate in to the brain. Regardless, women with silicone poisoning from leakage of liquid silicone risk a lifetime of health problems.