No. 1 is breast implants in plastic surgery
The statistics of cosmetically augmentation of breasts are what pop culture suggests they are, … eye popping.
In year 2006, there were 329,000 surgeries in the United States to rebuild, enhance, enlarge, uplift or otherwise change breasts. That made breast enhancement the No. 1 form of plastic surgery, up 55 percent from six years previous.
And there is no statistic or prognosticator, suggesting the popularity of breast plastic surgery is likely to decrease anytime soon.
But if the numbers are clear, the reasons behind them are not. Experts provided a variety of answers, from looks to better surgeries, when asked why breast augmentation is such a boom industry.
"Why do women's breasts have so much cultural power?" asks M. Joles, assistant professor in the women's studies at Cal State Fullerton. "It's a topic that scholars devote whole careers to studying."
Sex – or at least the hint of it – clearly is part of the equation.
"A 40 year old woman and divorced think larger breast implants lead to richer men," says J. Poznner, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the University of Miami Education of Medicine.
But other women desire breast implants to avoid being overlooked in other areas of life. "Society rewards women for their looks," says Mary Gilly, professor of marketing at UCI's Merage School of Business. "Men can get by with money and power – Hugh Hefner doesn't get all those young girlfriends based on his looks. But women necessitate to look good to be noticed."
Some suggest that women get breast implants to get better self-image.
Mr. R. Grent, president of the Allergan Medical division at Irvine-based breast implant maker Allergan Inc. says surveys show that women "aren't getting them to attract men, but to believe greater confidence in their femininity."
Miss A. Shamban, in Santa Monica who is a dermatologist and consultant for the "Extreme Makeover" TV show says large breasts are part of society's feminine ideal, which women accept and try to achieve."We're supposed to look like Barbie dolls. We're supposed to have these big breasts, waists of 22, and hips of a young man. Is that fair? No," she says.
Cal State Fullerton's Joles takes an approach that borders on the anthropological, saying big boobs are important in American culture as visible symbols of maternity and sexuality.
And, because men's attention is a potential source of power, Joles adds, many women – though not all – consciously or subconsciously care what their breasts look like because men care."Looking good means looking good to guys," Joles says.
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The recent surge in breast implants comes despite cautions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about medical problems that implants can cause.
The FDA approved the use of more natural-feeling silicone breast implants in November 2006 for patients age 22 and up. That approval ended a 14-year moratorium during which surgeons, breast implant manufacturers and regulators watched for any complications caused by the implants.
The agency concluded that silicone implants are probably not linked to disease but could cause problems such as chronic pain, especially when they rupture. For that reason, the FDA said patients who choose silicone implants need to have an MRI scan to look for leaks after three years and every two years after that.
Despite that extra burden, patients are now choosing silicone over saline-filled implants models by about 3-to-1, says D. Alttman, chief of plastic surgery at Irvine Regional Hospital & Medical Center.
The surge in breast implant operations was well under way even before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted its moratorium on silicone implants late last year. Last year's total of implant procedures was up 23 percent from 2005. Now the pace of breast augmentation surgeries is likely to increase, since silicone models are so popular, says Dr. R Gud, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.