The French medicines regulatory agency (ANSM) last week issued a warning that there was a ‘clear link’ between breast implants and cancer. The agency has given manufacturers 12 months to prove that their products are safe. In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is analysing the French data and, in the meantime, women who have had breast implants are being urged to be vigilant for signs of the disease.

Earlier this year, Penningtons Manches published an article on the link between breast implants and the rare but serious type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). This followed advice from the US medicines regulatory agency that women should be informed of the risk of ALCL and should also be counselled on the signs and symptoms of this breast implant associated cancer and made aware of when to take action.

ALCL is a cancer of the lymphatic system, part of the body's immune system. It is treatable providing a diagnosis is made early. New Australian-led research has found that breast implants exposed to bacteria may boost the chance of women developing ALCL. The research found that ALCL developed within eight years of having breast implant surgery and the finding of bacterial biofilm in breast implant associated ALCL samples points to an infectious cause.

Elise Bevan, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches who specialises in cosmetic surgery claims, commented: “The new data from the French agency suggests that there have been an estimated 250 reported cases worldwide of ALCL developing in women with breast implants. Although occurrences are rare, new evidence suggests that there is a clear link and there are calls for more research and better warnings. In the UK, the MHRA has released a statement to say that, while it is analysing the French data, it does not currently see the same trend in the UK. It is, however, monitoring the situation and the advice to women with implants is that they should be aware of and look out for signs of the cancer while carrying out regular checks on their breasts.”