SILICON breast implants can make it harder to obtain accurate screening results, and can therefore delay the diagnosis of cancer, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In most women with breast implants, there is a decrease in the 'measurable breast tissue' that is visible on the mammogram, the special X-ray for breasts, writes Dr Neal Handel, from the Breast Center, Van Nuys, California.

When an implant is inserted into the breast, an envelope of scar tissue forms around it. Sometimes this thickens and contracts, distorting the breast. This can result in up to 50 per cent reduction in the area visible on the mammogram. As the population with breast implants ages, women are increasingly at risk of breast cancer, warns Dr Handel.