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France to pay for breast implant removal over cancer fear

From Naima Benallal, CNN
updated 5:15 PM EST, Wed December 21, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The French Health ministry is concerned over a possible cancer link
  • About 30,000 French women have implants made by PIP
  • PIP implants are not approved for use in the United States
  • British officials advise women concerned about implants to talk to their doctor

Paris (CNN) -- The French government will pay for tens of thousands of women to have silicone breast implants removed over concerns about a possible link to a rare form of cancer, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday.

French health authorities are due to make a recommendation Friday about whether women with implants by a company called Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP) must have them removed.

The ministry says about 30,000 French women have PIP implants, which are not currently approved for use in the United States.

According to a news release from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, PIP is now defunct. It says the company "used non-medical grade silicone believed by the manufacturers to be made for mattresses."

The French government agency that evaluates the safety of medical products says 523 women have had them removed since a defect was discovered last year.

More than 1,000 implants have ruptured since then, the agency says.

British authorities are advising caution over the implants but are not going as far as the French.

The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said Tuesday it was "aware of the recent report in France of the death of a woman implanted with breast implants from anaplastic large cell lymphoma," which it called "a rare form of cancer which affects cells from the immune system."

It said it would "monitor for any associations of all types of breast implants, including PIP, with cancers and any other health implications."

But it did not advise women with PIP implants to have them taken out, saying more generally that "women with any type of breast implant... who have questions about their breasts or think that their implants may have ruptured, should seek clinical advice from their implanting surgeon."

A committee made up of representatives of several French health agencies was set up December 14 to discuss PIP implants.

Women will only be reimbursed for new implants if they were originally for reconstructive surgery, the Health Ministry said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided in March 2000 not to approve saline PIP implants in the United States. The company never submitted a marketing application for its silicone implants in the United States, the agency says.

CNN's Laura Perez Maestro and Miriam Falco contributed to this report.

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