In an unprecedented move, the French health authorities are urging 30,000 women with potentially carcinogenic breast implants to have them removed, a French paper reported on Tuesday.
The daily Libération said French Chief Health Officer Jean-Yves Grall had confirmed that the government would be instructing women to go back for surgery and have the suspect silicone prostheses taken out.
The implants in question were manufactured by French company Poly Implant Prosthesis (PIP). They were found to have been made using low-grade silicone that the French authorities believe can cause cancer.
So far, eight cases of breast cancer – one fatal – have been linked to the implants. Some 2,000 women have so far filed legal complaints against PIP, which has since closed and is facing a judicial inquiry for involuntary manslaughter.
Until now, the authorities have advised women to consult with their surgeons.
But the official government announcement, expected within days, will instruct women to go back to surgery and that the costs of having the implants removed will be covered by the state.
The state will not, however, pay for implants to be replaced unless they were originally put in following cancer surgery.
British authorities: no cancer link
Tens of thousands of women in the UK and Spain are also believed to have PIP implants.
But the British authorities on Tuesday said there was no established link between PIP implants and breast cancer cases, and the UK will not be following the French example.
A spokesman for the British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) told FRANCE 24 that all evidence had been reviewed and that there was “insufficient evidence to indicate any association with cancer.”
“Additionally, the MHRA worked with the Cancer Registry and could find no evidence for any association.”
British plastic surgeon Douglas McGeorge, former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) said that while it was sensible for women to consult their surgeons if they were concerned about the safety of their implants, he was surprised by the French authorities’ pending decision to instruct women to have them removed.
“It does seem rather an extreme measure,” he said, adding that one death among tens of thousands of patients with implants was “certainly not a case for blue flashing lights.”
“There is no evidence of an association with cancer and women with these implants should not panic,” he said, and that most of the “handful” of cancer cases supposedly linked to the PIP prostheses were benign and the women had recovered.