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Are polyurethane-coated breast implants safe?

Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
In the 1980s, thousands of women received the Meme, a polyurethane-coated implant. Although the Meme created far fewer hard breasts, the polyurethane degraded rapidly into a mushy material. I remember reoperating on a woman a few months after her Meme augmentation, only to find a gooey mess. I always wondered what had happened to the polyurethane, considering it was no longer around the implant. It turns out that 80% of women with these implants have toluene, a breakdown product of polyurethane, in their urine. It is possible that these chemicals may cause problems such as cancer later in life. While there is no documented increase of cancer in these women, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not yet recommending removal of polyurethane implants, I personally do recommend removal.

The polyurethane implant was taken off the worldwide market in 1991, but was later reintroduced. Because polyurethane implants have the CE mark (the European Union stamp of approval), they can be marketed in the twenty-five European Union and three European Free Trade Association member states, despite the objection of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA in the United Kingdom (the FDA equivalent). This agency in 2005 warned doctors that there was solid evidence that the implants, made by Polytech Silimed Europe, were carcinogenic.
Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

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Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

The public’s recent exuberance toward cosmetic surgery has spurred an unprecedented demand for appearance-changing procedures. But how can an average consumer discern the hype from solid truth? ...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.