Breast implants are the most commonly prescribed surgical procedures in the UK, but they’re also a major target for infections and a major cause of cancer.
A new study, published in the Lancet Oncology journal, shows that in the past two decades, breast implants have become infected at a rate of 10 per cent more than their peers.
The findings could help scientists to develop ways to treat infections and prevent cancer.
“We’re not sure if this is an aberration, or if we’ve seen an overall increase in breast cancer cases,” Dr Jody Strom of the University of Birmingham told BBC News.
“It’s important to remember that breast cancer is an inherited disease, so we don’t have any specific therapies that can be given to prevent or cure breast cancer.”
The study, funded by the Medical Research Council, used data from the Cancer Research UK database to compare breast implant infections between 2001 and 2010.
It looked at data from more than 3,000 women who underwent the procedure and who were followed for at least three years.
The study found that breast implants were more likely to be infected if the surgeon had undergone surgery on the other side of the world, or had a more invasive procedure.
“Our study shows that when we look at the data, the implants are more likely if the patient has undergone surgery abroad or had an invasive procedure,” said Dr Strom.
The research showed that breast implant infection rates were higher in the United States, where the procedure is more common.
The authors also found that patients who had undergone a triple bypass surgery were more than twice as likely to have a breast implant infected.
In addition, breast implant-related infections increased in women who were younger than 35.
The researchers say that this is due to the fact that older women tend to have more breast cancer than younger women.
“The number of infections has increased dramatically in the last decade, and this suggests that breast augmentation surgery is an increasing risk for breast cancer in older women,” said the study’s lead author Dr Anna Krasno, from the University’s Centre for Health, Social and Community Policy.
“For older women, the risk of developing breast cancer has also increased, which could be linked to the increased number of breast implants that are being treated.”
Dr Stom also told BBC World Service’s The World Tonight programme that the increased prevalence of breast implant disease in older people means that more research is needed to determine whether the increased risk of breast cancer can be explained by more surgical procedures or by factors other than surgery.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for the introduction of mandatory surgery on breast implants in the next few years.
“With the increasing incidence of breast disease, it is important that women are informed about the risks of breast augments,” said BMA general secretary Prof Julie Young.
“BMA will be seeking to make this information available to the public so they can make the best choice for their family and the future of their health.”
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