Breast implants linked to suicide
23:01 06 March 03
NewScientist.com news service
Women with cosmetic breast implants are significantly more likely to commit suicide than those without them, according to a new study.
The researchers, motivated by the debate over the health risks of breast implants, analysed the medical records of 3500 Swedish women who had had
breast implants. They considered only cosmetic operations, excluding women who received implants after breast cancer surgery.
The 3500 women ranged in age from teenagers to pensioners and had the implant operation between 1965 and 1993. In an average group of the same size
and age, 59 deaths would be expected, but the researchers found that 85 women had died.
Fifteen had taken their own lives, three times the number expected, and a higher number of deaths from smoking-related diseases like lung cancer were
"Women who ask for breast implants may have low self-esteem," suggests Veronica Koot at the University Medical Centre, Utrecht, Netherlands, who led
the study. "Similarly, women who smoke may also have low self-esteem."
Michael Beary, a consultant psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital, London agrees that women with low-self esteem are more body conscious and more likely
to have breast implants.
"Quite a lot of women who become depressed will seek plastic surgery as a treatment for depression," he says. "However, quite often operations go
wrong, leading to unsightly scarring, unequal breasts or numb areas, and this can make the depression worse. I have certainly seen suicide attempts in
women after surgery who were depressed beforehand." Similarly, Beary says teenage girls with low-self esteem about their bodies can take up smoking
believing it will help them lose weight, making it more likely that women who have breast implants are also smokers.