Can having breast implants lead to suicide? 7 On Your Side investigates

Kimberly Suiters, ABC7

Three-hundred thousand women will get breast implants this year, making it the number one cosmetic surgery in the U.S. Research shows the typical breast implant patient has high self-esteem and good mental health, higher and better than the general population. According to implant manufacturers, satisfaction rates top the 83-97 percentile range, excellent results for any kind of surgery. So why would some women with breast implants have a higher rate of suicide than women who don’t have them?

“Maybe just a coincidence,” Dr. Scott Spear, a well-known plastic surgeon in Washington, D.C., told 7 On Your Side. “There may be an association between breast implants and suicide, but it’s probably a loose association.”

That’s not the way Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, sees it. Not at all.

“When you look at suicide and implants, the women with breast implants are more likely to kill themselves.”

How much more likely? Anywhere from two to 12 times. Zuckerman wrote about that conclusion after evaluating seven studies on the topic.

“Some surgeons believe if a woman with implants kills herself, she must’ve had something wrong to begin with; that she got implants because of low self-esteem, depression, to feel better. But women with implants are more likely to kill themselves than with other (plastic) surgeries. Why would a mastectomy patient be 10 times as likely to kill herself as a mastectomy patient who doesn’t have implants?”

Zuckerman doesn’t know that answer definitively, but she is convinced there is something physiological or mental that causes women with implants to have a diminished view of themselves.

The number of women who get to that tragic point is small. According to the CDC: 9.8 women per 100,000 will commit suicide. And middle-aged women, in general, had the largest increase in suicide in the last 15 years, up 63 percent.

Dr. Zuckerman said women going through menopause are one of the highest risk groups. Their bodies have changed after giving birth, and they may be lured in by “Mommy Makeover” marketing.

“But according to research,” she said, “it’s a bad time. A dangerous time.”

Dr. Spear shakes his head. “By no stretch would I believe that women with implants are suicidal. In fact, it’s the opposite.”

“Do you think these studies are even worth mentioning to your patients?” asked 7 On Your Side.

“No, I don’t, to be honest. This is far off the radar screen. There are so many other issues. This is a very fringy issue.”

However, in 2007, Dr. Spear co-authored an article titled, “What Do Women Need to Know and When do They Need to Know It?”, which stated: “Physicians need to be alert to the documented increased risk of suicide among women with breast implants, which was statistically significant in several large studies.”

Read the full article here.