Australian women with breast implants are being warned they could be at risk of cancer.

With the cosmetic surgery dropping in price and exploding in popularity, 40,000 women are getting implants in Australia each year.

A ground-breaking new Australian study which was just released online and ahead of print in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal, reveals for the first time the true risk to women of developing a rare type of cancer of the immune system from breast implant surgery.

About 60 women in Australia and New Zealand have now developed anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) linked to their implants. Four women have died.

The new research draws on breast implant sales data to work out the risk of the implant-associated cancer, a rare form of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that typically takes years to develop.

“The number of cases that are being reported is increasing around the world – and in Australia we actually have a relatively high incidence of it,” Professor Anand Deva, head of cosmetic, plastic and reconstructive surgery at Macquarie University in Sydney said.

Professor Deva is at the forefront of international research establishing the link between implants and ALCL.

“If women are considering breast implant surgery for any reason, their surgeon should inform them of the specific risk of this disease.”

According to the new study, the current risk of developing ALCL from the riskiest type of implants is about one in 3,800 – although much also depends on infection control, time and patient genetics.