Are Breast Implants Safe?

Diana Zuckerman, PhD

Disclosures
In This Article

Introduction

More women are getting breast implants than ever before. In 2000, a total of 203,310 women underwent breast implant surgery for augmentation,[1] and 82,975 women underwent breast implant surgery for reconstruction after mastectomy in 1999 (the most recent statistics available).[2] The number of women and teenage girls who chose implants to augment their breast size more than doubled between 1997 and 2000.

This dramatic increase reflects a booming economy and other factors, including the widespread belief that breast implants are safe for long-term use. This belief is supported by press coverage of a meta-analysis of research on autoimmune diseases and the widely publicized report of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), both of which summarized research that was published prior to 1999 and both of which concluded that implants probably do not cause connective tissue disease.[3,4] It is therefore not surprising that a Medscape General Medicine editorial concluded that implants are safe and that silicone gel breast implants, which are available under restricted conditions, should be approved for sale to any women who want them.[5]

Still, the editorial seems to disregard the way that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory process works, and, even more surprising, the editorial, and several recent Medscape articles, do not adequately consider the most recent research evidence of serious health problems linked to all breast implants, and especially silicone gel implants.

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