During the 1980s and 1990s, the safety of silicone breast implants became a matter of much debate. Several lawsuits, where women had been exposed to silicone through puncture or rupture of the silicone implants were won after women developed neurological or autoimmune conditions. These early wins led to more lawsuits and studies.
While many expected these studies would show silicone implants to be unsafe, in fact they did not. Even though no defined link between breast cancer, autoimmune disease, or neurological problems as a result of silicone exposure was found, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US ordered silicone implants off the markets in 1999. They were replaced by saline implants, which according to some, were inferior due to their "less natural" look and feel.
Extensive research conducted by scientists across the world, however, proved that silicone implants were relatively safe. The greatest risk factors involved in using them were scarring or hardening of the breast tissue. Beyond that, no research related to silicone exposure through implants could establish that they caused disease. As such, in 2006 silicone implants once again became legal for any woman who requested them in the US.
During the scare of the late 20th century, many women chose to have their silicone implants removed and replaced with saline implants. Some of these women have now gladly gone back to silicone implants, because they tend to have a more authentic breast feel and hold than do saline implants. Opinions on this vary however. Some find the new saline implants more preferable than silicone implants.
It should be stated, however, that placing either saline or silicone implants is major surgery. Even if silicone implants do not cause specific health hazards, surgery does. All people who undergo surgery face risks of complications due to infection, adverse reaction to anesthesia, and accidents during surgery. Getting silicone implants is thus not without health risk, although that health risk tends to be related most to the surgery and not to the implants.