Archive for Sunday, January 5, 1992

UNNECESSARY RISK

January 5, 1992

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A battle currently is under way between a consumer group and the federal Food and Drug Administration over the safety of silicone-gel breast implants. The surface issues in this debate are disturbing enough, but the social standard that feeds the controversy may be even more cause for concern.

An organization called Public Citizen Health Group Thursday urged the FDA to ban silicone breast implants immediately rather than leave them on the market while safety concerns about the implants are studied. The FDA reports 2,500 illnesses or injuries associated with the breast implants, but Public Citizen estimates that hundreds of thousands of women who received the implants have suffered complications, including ruptures, leaks and hardness. Silicone leaking into the body also has been linked to cancer and serious connective tissue diseases, according to the consumer group.

FDA figures indicate that about 2 million women have received silicone gel breast implants about 150,000 each year. And 80 percent of those implants, according to the FDA, are done not to reconstruct breasts removed as a result of disease or injury but for cosmetic purposes.

That means that about 120,000 women a year are undergoing silicone breast implants and perhaps endangering their health primarily because they are seeking to enhance their physical appearance. Their desire to take that step can only be attributed to a combination of personal vanity and a society that has placed too much emphasis on the size of a woman's breasts.

It will take more testing to confirm any suspicions about the health risks of silicone-gel implants. The malady that drives women to undergo a questionable treatment merely to have larger breasts is easier to diagnose. Americans need to straighten out their priorities. There's no greater gift than good health, and artificially enlarging a woman's breasts is a poor reason to risk such a precious commodity.

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