French authorities say an estimated 300,000 women have the implants worldwide, including more than 42,000 in Britain, more than 30,000 in France, 9,000 in Australia and 4,000 in Italy.
The implants were never approved for sale in the United States, but tens of thousands of pairs were sold in Latin America. In Colombia, for instance, the association of plastic surgeons says about 14,000 pairs of PIP implants were sold.
On a per-capita basis, Venezuela appears to lead Latin America in the number of breast implants. That’s no surprise to most people in the country, where beauty pageants are a source of national pride and where some teenagers receive implants as birthday presents. Middle-class women sometimes set aside large portions of their salaries for the surgery.
An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 women undergo breast enlargement surgeries in Venezuela each year, and doctors say the numbers have been rising.”Terror has certainly gripped patients who have the implants, but I don’t believe the desire for breast enlargement surgery is going to diminish,” said Gabriel Obayi, a surgeon who has been answering many emails from women concerned about health risks.
Like most surgeons in Venezuela, Obayi recommends that PIP implants eventually be removed but advises that surgery is not urgent in most cases.Regardless of the brand, breast implants are known to break down over time and rupture in some cases.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned silicone-gel type implants in 1992 amid fears they might cause cancer, lupus and other diseases. But in 2006 the agency returned the implants to the U.S. market after most studies failed to find a link between silicone breast implants and disease.