The Independent (21 December) reports, under the headline, “Breast implant panic spreads to UK” on a French recommendation that women who have received possibly defective silicone breast implants should have them removed.
Further to the The Independent article, The Daily Mail headline on the same story reads, “Thousands of British women told to 'have breast implants removed if you're worried' as French authorities issue cancer alert”.
A French company produced implants containing cheap industrial-grade silicon and shipped these all over the world. In France there have been reports of a very high rate of rupture and leakage from these “PIP” implants. Eight cases of cancer have been reported and a ninth woman is said to have died of a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).
The background to this is an earlier US report of a higher rate of ALCL in women who have received breast implants. Importantly, the US report stresses that this is based on about 60 cases reported worldwide among the 5-10 million women who have had implants.
It is not yet clear if the ALCL cases are directly caused by the implants. The US recommendation is that this complication is so rare that it does not justify removal of implants which are not causing problems.
They have also said there is no reason not to implants, even for purely cosmetic reasons.
The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), takes a rather more measured view. The MHRA recommends that women who are concerned about an implant "should seek clinical advice from their implanting surgeon". It does not consider that there is any case for an active program to remove implants.
Ken - Science Communications team