Suicide higher among breast implant patients

Study followed Swedish women, found risk tripled

August 08, 2007|By Denise Gellene | Denise Gellene,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Women who receive implants for breast enhancement are three times more likely to commit suicide, according to a new report that offered a sobering view of an increasingly popular surgery.

Deaths related to mental disorders, including alcohol or drug dependence, also were three times higher among women who had the cosmetic procedure, researchers said.

The report in the August issue of the Annals of Plastic Surgery was the most recent to detect a higher suicide rate among women who had their breasts enlarged, providing a gloomy counterpoint to other studies that showed women felt better about themselves after getting implants.

While the study did not look at the reasons behind the suicides, senior author Joseph McLaughlin, a professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said he believed that many of the women had psychological problems before getting breast implants and their condition did not improve afterward.

Previous studies have shown that up to 15 percent of plastic surgery patients have body dysmorphic disorder, a psychological condition marked by severe distress over minor physical imperfections.

People with the disorder have a higher rate of suicidal thoughts and rarely improve after plastic surgery.

Breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the U.S., followed by liposuction and eyelid surgery. Last year, 315,516 breast enlargements were performed, up 13 percent from 2005, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

The latest study analyzed data from 3,527 Swedish women who got implants between 1965 and 1993. Breast cancer patients who received implants as part of breast reconstruction surgery were not included in the study.

Scientists tracked the women for up to 29 years after implant surgery and found the risk of suicide increased over time.

There was no increased risk during the first 10 years after surgery, researchers said. Suicide risk was 4.5 times higher 10 to 19 years after surgery and six times higher after 20 years.

David B. Sarwer, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist who wrote a commentary accompanying the report, said the results suggest that women experienced an improvement in their psychological state after surgery, but it was not sustained over time.

Denise Gellene writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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