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'Fat Transfer' Gets Early Safety OK in Breast Reconstruction

WEDNESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- A procedure commonly used in breast reconstruction but lacking evidence as to its safety does, in fact, appear to be safe and unlikely to increase the chances of breast cancer returning, a new study has found.

Called lipofilling, the procedure involves taking fat from one area of the body, such as the abdomen, and using it to correct small defects or asymmetry during breast reconstruction.

The procedure has been used for 30 years, but cancer experts say that women have not been assured that it would not trigger a cancer recurrence. Laboratory testing has shown that fatty tissue can spur cancer cells to multiply, prompting questions as to whether that would be the case in people as well.

For the study, researchers examined data on 321 women who had breast cancer surgery and then reconstruction that included lipofilling, comparing it with data on 642 women who had breast cancer surgery but no lipofilling.

A little more than two years after the lipofilling, and nearly five years after their original cancer surgery, no significant difference in breast cancer recurrence was found between the women who had lipofilling and those who did not. The findings were published online May 24 in Annals of Oncology.

"To date, only a few studies have focused on cancer recurrences after lipofilling, and this is the first case-control study to investigate the question and the first publication to show the safety of the procedure," Dr. Jean Yves Petit, a professor in plastic surgery at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, said in a news release from the journal. "Our overall results do not find any difference in recurrences between the women in the lipofilling and control groups."

However, Petit also urged caution.

"It is still too early in the follow-up to be able to draw any definitive conclusions," he said. "We urge other teams working in the same field to gather their own results concerning local recurrences after lipofilling in breast conservation treatment."

More information

The American Cancer Society offers detailed information on breast reconstruction.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Annals of Oncology, news release, May 24, 2011

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