Jeremy Laurance: Of course this is worrying, but there's no need to panic

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A lot of women who have had breast augmentations will be anxious and confused today. If they are among the 50,000 in Britain unlucky enough to have a French-made PIP implant, they will wonder what advice to follow – that of French authorities or the British?

No operation is without risk. Removing an implant must be balanced against the potential danger of leaving it in place.

While the French government is reported to be about to order wholesale replacement of PIP implants, the British regulator, the MHRA, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

Why the difference? It is unlikely the French government is reacting to the death of a single woman from a rare form of lymphoma before any causal link could be established.

However, the implants have a high failure rate, judged unacceptable by some experts, and a possible increased risk of cancer, however remote.

It was being suggested yesterday that the French may have discovered a "hole in the regulatory process for medical devices" that made them liable and caused them to act.

In Britain, different priorities apply. So long as the implants remain whole and unruptured, the likelihood of long-term danger seems low.

US authorities found only 60 cases of the rare form of lymphoma linked with implants from tens of millions of women who have had them worldwide.

All surgery is risky and most implants are cosmetic and done by private surgeons operating for profit. For women weighing up their next move, this is worth remembering. It could be safer and cheaper to leave them where they are.

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