Saturday, January 28, 2012

When Breast Implants Attack

Sometimes, as in the case of a recent Florida stabbing, breast implants can save lives. But as many as 500,000 women in 65 countries across the world may have received breast implants consisting of silicone designed, not for medical procedures and placement in the human body, but rather for manufacturing mattresses. And because this silicone wasn’t designed to leave inside human beings forever, the shoddy implants have been rupturing. The result? Hundreds of thousands of women with ticking-time-bomb breast enhancements, their boobs full of something akin to mattress stuffing.
Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of Poly Implant Prostheses, or PIP, is being investigated for involuntary manslaughter in France for his role in knowingly producing these implants using industrial-grade silicon. Mas was arrested in his home Thursday for his possible involvement in the 2010 death of a French woman with PIP implants.
Judge Annaick Le Goff opened an investigation into the events after the mother of the deceased filed a lawsuit against the implant manufacturers. In November of 2011, another woman died after receiving PIP implants, this time from complications from lymphoma. Currently, over 3,000 PIP implant recipients are involved in the lawsuit against Mas.
Implants with industrial silicone are more likely to rupture than those made with medical-grade silicone, the French Health Ministry said in a statement this December. While they haven’t stated that the industrial silicone is carcinogenic, they do warn that it can cause scar tissue, inflammation, and fibrosis. It’s difficult to parse whether implants do, in fact, raise cancer rates among women. There are many studies showing that breast cancer rates, specifically, are not higher in implant populations. But there are also long-term follow-up studies that show increases in respiratory and brain cancers in women with implants, not to mention a four-fold increase in suicide. Personally, if I had to gamble on whether implanting globes of silicone in a human body for fifty years would increase its chances of developing some sort of cancer, I’d probably go with yes.
The best course of action for the hundreds of thousands of affected women is unclear. Luckily for Americans, the medical device approval process of the FDA prevented the approval of the PIP implants in the United States. The French, Czech, and German governments are recommending removal for all women, while the UK authorities state that there is not enough evidence that the implants pose a health risk to recommend mass removals. The Brazilian government announced they will fine private health plans that refuse to pay for the removal and replacement of the implants.


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