More than 250 British women with silicone breast implants, manufactured by a French company, are to take legal action after eight women in France with similar implants were found to have cancer sparking a Europe-wide health scare.

Up to 40,000 British women are estimated to have implants supplied by now defunct Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) and many have reported suffering rupture or adverse side effects. Experts said PIP implants were filled with cheaper non-medical grade silicone, usually used in mattresses, making them likely to split.

While the French Government has advised all women with PIP implants to have them taken out and has also offered to pay for the procedure, health authorities in Britain have sought to play down fears that they could cause cancer. Britain's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Action (MHRA) said there was “insufficient evidence to indicate any association with cancer”.

“The MHRA's current advice to women with any type of breast implant continues to be that women who are concerned about their breasts or think that their implants may have ruptured, should seek clinical advice from their implanting surgeon,” it said.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) advised women with breast implants to check with clinics that fitted them, whether they were supplied by PIP, so that their health could be monitored.

Some experts warned that PIP implants were not fully safe.

“People with PIP implants do have a higher failure rate and there is a significant risk at some point they might rupture. If this is a worry for patients, the sensible thing to do is to get them replaced earlier rather than later,” said Douglas McGeorge, consultant plastic surgeon and former president of BAAPS

More than 300,000 implants were believed to have been sold globally by PIP over the last 12 years, according to the BBC. Lawyers for women seeking legal action said the clinics that fitted them charged “thousands of pounds” and were liable to paying for damages.