Breast Enlargement--Health Risks of
Breast Augmentation
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October 3, 2009, last updated April 3, 2013

By Natalia Real,  Featured Columnist, Susan Callahan, Health Editor
and  staff of CollectiveWizdom




Did you know that 307,230 young and adult women
underwent breast augmentation with silicone or saline
implants in 2007 - more than triple the amount since 1997,
according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery?  

Breast enlargement is now the single most common elective
surgery in the US. Two million women in the US now have
breast implants. While nearly 80,000 of these procedures
were for breast reconstruction using implants after
mastectomy, 75% of breast enlargement surgeries were
elective surgery, for non-essential or cosmetic reasons.
What's more, younger and younger women are electing to
enlarge their breasts.  

According to the American Society of Plastic and
Reconstructive Surgeons, the average age of women who
elect to have breast enlargement surgery in the US is 32,
down from an average age of 45 in 1974. Silicone implants
have been approved by the FDA for women as young as
22, and the FDA in all its wisdom has approved saline
implants for teenagers as young as 18. Business is
booming, and the customers are getting younger.  

But while thousands of women are lining up at the check-
out counter to buy new breasts, an increasing number are
also lining up at the "return" window.  Interestingly, also
last year, over 40,000 women had implant removal
procedures. Buyer's remorse, perhaps.

What are the health risks for breast enlargement surgery?
Are there any dangers to the long-term health of women
who undertake these procedures?


























Risk of Death From Breast Enlargement

In the largest study of its kind,  researchers from the  
Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control and
other universites in Canada in 2006 examined the health
histories of 24,555 women who had undergone breat
augmentation. The good news is that the study found no
difference n the long-term mortality of women who had
undergone breast augmentation.   

Increased Suicide Risk Linked to Breast Enlargement

However, there was one bombshell statistic from the study.
Women who undergo breast enlargement surgery have a
75% greater risk for committing suicide than women who
do not.  

A similar study in 2007 among Swedish women found the
same association. Researchers who examined the health
records of 3,527 Swedish women who had received breast
implants between 1965 and 1993 found that the women
who had had breast implants were three times more likely
to commit suicide than women with natural breasts.

More research is needed to determine whether women who
elect breast surgery were already predisposed to suicide
but the raw statisistics are alarming.

Complications from Breast Enlargement Surgery

Breast augmentation has always been controversial.
Although the procedure has relatively improved in safety
over the past few decades, the short- and long-term risks
that remain are often serious. The "local complications," or
problems in the breast area, are surgical risks such as
infection, chronic pain, breast or nipple numbness, painfully
sensitive nipples, scar tissue, capsular contracture,
breakage and leakage, skin death (necrosis), need for
further surgery, and "cosmetic" problems - patient
dissatisfaction with the resulting appearance of the breast.
These are not insignificant complications.

According to a 2005 report by the Federal Drug
Administration, saline and silicone gel breast implants cause
at least one local complication in 75% of reconstruction
patients and nearly 50% of first-time augmentation
patients. Complications include pain, infection, hardening,
or need for additional surgery.

The additional operations often required due to surgical
risks themselves pose similar risks, mainly mild to severe
infection and hematoma. The risks are the same for women
who go under the knife to get broken or damaged implants
fixed.

Now, not only do many saline implants break and leak their
contents into the body, but because bacteria and mold can
fester within these implants, these would also enter the
body if the implant breaks. And yet, no research has been
conducted into the physiological impact this would have on
a woman’s body or her nursing baby.

Risk of Leakage and Breakage of Breast Implants

It only gets worse.  According to the FDA, all implants
eventually break. The only question is when. While some
implants can take over 15 years to become damaged, some
take just a few months. In a study conducted by the FDA in
2000, 21% of women whose implants had ruptured within
their bodies were unable to perceive the silicone leaking
into their chest cavity.

Mammograms are often inaccurate detectors of these
ruptures. Moreover, if an implant is already broken, the
pressure caused by a mammogram may push the silicone
gel out from the implant, according to plastic surgeon Dr.
Scott Spear and former director of FDA’s Office for Women’
s Health Dr. Susan Wood.

Whether breast implants cause illnesses beyond the breast
area remains unknown. However, silicone gel has been
found to turn liquid in the body, facilitating its migration to
the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, and other organs. Even a
woman with an implant on her calf, although much farther
from her lungs than a breast implant would be, was found
to have coughed up its silicone.

Breast Implants Linked to Increased Risk of Arthritis, RA
and Joint Stiffness

Several studies have linked breast augmentation
procedures with increased risk of
arthritis. A 1998 study
lead by Dr. S. Edworthy and published in the Journal of
Rheumatology found that women with breast implants are
44% more likely to suffer from arthritis, rheumatoid
arthritis or joint stiffness later in life.  These women also
were significantly more likelyto report having difficulty in
solving thought problems and to report numbness and
stiffness in their hands, arms and feet.muscle pains and
painful headaches.


The Cost of Beauty

In the quest for beauty, women underwent 300,000 breast
enlargement surgeries in 2008, surgeries with uncertain
impact on their long-term physical and emotional health.  It
is worth thoroughly questioning, then, whether the search
for “perfect” or “enhanced” breasts is worth the massive
trouble. And if the problem is low self-esteem, do implants
get rid of it? There is always something more to “fix”.  The
real issue appears to be, if we are choosing to go under the
knife to fix ourselves in pursuit of beauty or group
acceptance, have we chosen the right body part to fix?
Perhaps, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault lies not in
our breasts, but in our brains.

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Selected Sources: (1)Study of Breast Implants and Disease
in Meta-Analysis
(2)Safety of Silicone Implants, Review by Insittute of
Medicine


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Heidi Klum is one of a long list of
celebrities who have had breast
enlargement procedures.
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