The number of breast enlargement operations carried out in Britain has increased almost three-fold in five years, a report out today has claimed.

Delegates to the annual conference of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) were shown the results of the largest ever UK-study into breast augmentation surgery.

It found the number of procedures for breast enlargements carried out by its members had risen 275 per cent - from 2,361 operations in 2002 to 6,497 in 2007.

As well as the rise in procedures, the research also claims there has been a decline in the number of complications.

The study of 26,852 operations found an average rate of infection of 0.53 per cent. BAAPS says the result compares favourably to an earlier study of 10,000 operations for The Lancet, in February 2005, which found an infection rate of 2.5 per cent.

The BAAPS study also found 1.2 per cent of its members' operations resulted in haematoma (bleeding).

Rajiv Grover, secretary of BAAPS and a consultant plastic surgeon, collated the information and studied the data.

He said: "The reason why we have this enormous increase is down to a number of factors, including improvements in surgery - shorter stays in hospital and shorter scar periods.

"It is also the result of media exposure. People used to think that breast augmentation was open only to celebrities and film stars whereas they are now aware that the procedure is open to all members of the public, should it be right for them.

"Pictures of famous women alongside 'has she, hasn't she' headlines appear in newspapers and magazines every week. The media has made it seem real to people and raised awareness of the procedure."

He added: "This survey of over 26,000 patients undergoing breast augmentation is the largest of its kind in Europe and demonstrates that reduced complication rates can be achieved by the application of careful surgical technique and a safe hospital environment.

"Patients should choose their surgeon carefully as this is not an operation where one size fits all and tailoring the procedure to each individual does produce better results."