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Cosmetic Breast Implants Linked To Increased Rates Of Suicide

Armen Hareyan's picture

Cosmetic Breast Implants

Women who receive cosmetic breast implants are three times more likelyto commit suicide than women who do not have cosmetic implants,according to a study published in the August issue of the Annals of Plastic Surgery, the Los Angeles Times reports. For the study, Joseph McLaughlin, a professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine,and colleagues analyzed data from 3,527 Swedish women who receivedcosmetic breast implants between 1965 and 1993. Scientists tracked thewomen for as long as 29 years after surgery. Breast cancer patients whoreceived reconstructive implants were not included in the study.

Thestudy found that the risk of suicide did not increase during the first10 years after surgery but was 4.5 times higher 10 to 19 years aftersurgery and six times higher after 20 years (Gellene, Los Angeles Times,8/8). According to the findings, the risk of suicide was greatest --seven times higher -- among women who received breast implants afterage 45, the Washington Times reports (Harper, Washington Times, 8/9).

Thestudy also found that deaths related to mental disorders, includingalcohol or drug addiction, were three times higher among women who hadcosmetic breast implants (Los Angeles Times, 8/8). Atleast 38 deaths, or 22% of all deaths, in the "implant cohort wereassociated with suicide, psychological disorders, and/or drug andalcohol abuse [or] dependence," the researchers wrote.

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Researchersfound no increase in the risk of death from cancer, including breastcancer, among women who received implants. According to the study,women with implants were more likely to die from lung cancer andrespiratory diseases, such as emphysema; however, that probably isbecause they were more likely to smoke, the researchers said (Fox, Reuters, 8/8).

Althoughthe study did not examine reasons why the women committed suicide,McLaughlin said he believes that many of them had psychological issuesbefore undergoing the surgery and that their problems did not improveafterward. Previous studies have found that as many as 15% of cosmeticsurgery patients have body dysmorphic disorder -- a condition marked byextreme distress over minor physical flaws. People with the disorderhave an elevated rate of suicidal thoughts and seldom improve aftersurgery, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 8/8).

"Ithink we don't even know how big of a problem it is because we cannoteven pinpoint what proportion of women have psychiatric disorders,"Loren Lipworth, a study author from Vanderbilt, said, adding, "Therecould be a whole lot of different disorders" (Reuters, 8/8).

Researchersnoted that the study might have limited applicability to women todaybecause breast augmentation is more acceptable than it was 40 yearsago, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times,8/8). However, the findings "warrant increased screening, counselingand perhaps post-implant monitoring of women seeking cosmetic breastimplants," Lipworth wrote (Washington Times, 8/9). According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 329,396 breast enlargements were performed in 2006 -- an increase of 13% compared with 2005.

David Sarwer, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania,in an accompanying commentary wrote that the study's findings suggestthat women can experience psychological improvement after surgery butthat it is not sustained (Los Angeles Times, 8/8). "Untilwe know more about the relationship between breast implants andsuicide, this conservative approach is recommended with both thepatient's and surgeon's well-being in mind," Sarwer wrote (Washington Times, 8/9).

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