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Techniques & Technologies

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Breast implants

A breast implant is a prosthesis inserted into the breast either to enlarge it or to replace breast tissue that has been removed by surgery. There are two types of modern breast implants: silicone filled and saline filled.

The first implant in 1895 was from a tumour on the recipient’s back. Other materials have been used since then, including ivory, glass balls, rubber and animal cartilage. Silicone breasts were first implanted in 1962, but by the 1980s these implants had been blamed for a host of diseases and conditions, including breast cancer, and were banned in 1992 (the ban was eventually lifted). Saline-filled implants were developed in the 1990s as a safer alternative to silicone.

The number of women receiving breast implants for cosmetic purposes continues to rise despite concerns about the safety of these implants.


Related links


E Haiken, Venus Envy, A History of Cosmetic Surgery (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2000)

N Jacobson, Cleavage: A History of Breast Surgery (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000)



Artificial body parts, or materials inserted into tissue for functional, cosmetic, or therapeutic effect. Prostheses can be functional (artificial arms and legs), or cosmetic (artificial eye).