A large Canadian study adds to evidence that women with breast implants do not face a higher risk of cancer or other major diseases, but they may have a higher-than-average rate of suicide.
Among the more than 40,000 women in the study, those who'd received cosmetic breast implants had lower-than-average risks of dying from breast cancer, heart disease and a host of other major diseases.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, are in line with those of several past studies. Despite concerns that implants might be a risk factor for cancer or other major illnesses, researchers have generally found lower risks among breast implant recipients. "To some extent, what you're seeing is a screening effect," said Dr Howard Morrison of the Public Health Agency of Canada in Ottawa.
That is, women who undergo elective invasive surgery are necessarily in good health, and may have lower-than-average risks of various diseases. Together with past studies, the new findings should be generally reassuring to women with implants, according to Morrison, whose colleague at the health agency, Dr Paul J Villeneuve, led the study. But the research also confirmed another finding that several studies have now uncovered: women with breast implants commit suicide at a higher-than-average rate. "These findings agree fundamentally with those of past reports," Morrison said. "The one thing that lights up is this increased suicide risk."
Though this study could not dig for the reasons, Morrison noted that other studies have found poorer self-esteem and elevated rates of depression and other psychiatric disorders among women who opt for breast augmentation. The current findings are based on data from 24,558 women who received breast implants between 1974 and 1989, and 15,893 women who had other types of plastic surgery during the same time period. The researchers tracked deaths through 1997.
Compared with rates for the general population, women in both surgery groups were about one-quarter less likely to die of cancer, and their risks of death from other major diseases were similarly lower.
Women with implants were, however, 73 per cent more likely than those in the general population to commit suicide, while women who had other forms of plastic surgery also had an elevated suicide rate.
The risk was not dramatic, Morrison noted, as few women in the study committed suicide -- including 58 of the more than 24,000 breast implant patients. Still, he said it "seems reasonable" to suggest plastic surgeons refer implant seekers for mental health consultation when they suspect the patients are at high risk of a psychiatric disorder or suicide.