Women with breast im­plants three times more likely to kill selves, study says

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

Those Hol­ly­wood curves may be haz­ardous.

Women who opt for cos­metic breast im­plants are three times as likely to com­mit sui­cide, ac­cord­ing to a study re­leased Aug. 8 by Van­der­bilt Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

“This long-term study fur­ther con­firms the link be­tween breast im­plants and a strik­ingly high risk of sui­cide,” the study said, not­ing that there was a “sim­i­lar in­crease” in deaths from al­co­hol or drug abuse and de­pen­dence.

Men­tal an­guish re­lated to Amer­ica’s most pop­u­lar cos­metic pro­ce­dure — “long-term psy­chi­atric mor- bid­ity and even­tu­ally mor­tal­ity” — is a real pos­si­bil­ity, the study found.

“Such find­ings war­rant in­creased screen­ing, coun­sel­ing and per­haps post-im­plant mon­i­tor­ing of women seek­ing cos­metic breast im­plants,” said Dr. Loren Lip­worth, an epi­demi­ol­o­gist with the Ten­nessee school who led the re­search, which was pub­lished in An­nals of Plas­tic Surgery.

Po­ten­tial mood disor­ders as­so­ci­ated with breast im­plants in­clude de­pres­sion and body dys­mor­phic dis­or­der, a con­di­tion char­ac­ter­ized by an ob­ses­sion with phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance, some­times ac­com­pa­nied by ex­ces­sive groom­ing rit­u­als.

Dr. Lip­worth an­a­lyzed the med­i­cal his­to­ries and death cer­tifi­cate data on 3,527 women who had cos­metic breast im­plant surgery be­tween 1965 and 1993, fol­low­ing them for al­most two decades af­ter their surg­eries. She found the sui­cide rate was triple that of women with­out im­plants. The risk was great­est — seven times higher — for women who got im­plants af­ter turn­ing 45.

David Sar­wer, a psy­chol­o­gist with the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia School of Medicine, rec­om­mended that plas­tic sur­geons scru­ti­nize the men­tal state of women who want breast aug­men­ta­tion.

“Un­til we know more about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween breast im­plants and sui­cide, this con­ser­va­tive approach is rec­om­mended with both the pa­tient’s and sur­geon’s well- be­ing in mind,” he said.

Ther­a­pists may have plenty of pa­tients. For the first time on record, breast im­plants out­num­bered any other cos­metic pro­ce­dure, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Plas­tic Sur­geons (ASPS). Last year, 329,396 women im­proved their bust­lines — more than 2 1/2 times the 1997 num­ber of 122,385.

The num­bers are only go­ing to in­crease. Ear­lier this year, a ASPS sur­vey of 6,000 doc­tors found that the ma­jor­ity pre­dicted the num­ber of breast aug­men­ta­tions would in­crease by at least 25 per­cent in the next year; and al­most three-quar­ters of the sur­geons now per­form at least five im­plant pro­ce­dures a month.

Some say tastes are chang­ing, and big­ger may not be bet­ter.

“Women don’t want to look ‘done,’ like they’ve had surgery. They in­stead wish to fill out cloth­ing bet­ter and feel more com­fort­able out of cloth­ing,” said Dr. Michael Law, a North Carolina-based plas­tic sur­geon. “I rarely have pa­tients re­quest­ing large im­plants any­more.”

He still gets oc­ca­sional queries, though.

“I sim­ply won’t per­form any aes­thetic surgery that doesn’t look nat­u­ral. A wo­man with very large breast im­plants that doesn’t match her frame looks like a car­toon char­ac­ter,” Dr. Law said. “But th­ese pa­tients never have any prob­lem find­ing some­one who will give them the look that they want.”

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