NBC's Today Show: Breast Augmentation and Suicide
ANCHORS: MEREDITH VIEIRA
REPORTERS: Dr. NANCY SNYDERMAN
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Last year, more than 300,000 women in this country got breast implants, making it the most popular cosmetic surgery around. But now a new study in the annals of plastic surgery is suggesting a possible link between breast implants and suicide. But is it good science? NBC's chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman is here with her thoughts.
VIEIRA: Tell us about this study. It's out of Sweden?
SNYDERMAN: Yes, 3500 women out of Sweden followed from 1965 to 1993 and what these surgeons--researchers found was that there's an increased risk of suicide in women, especially 10 years after the implant.
VIEIRA: Three times, right? Three times as likely.
SNYDERMAN: Yeah, three times higher. Now, is this great science? No. Is there sort of an implied link? Maybe. But I don't think this is an indictment of plastic surgery and certainly not breast implants. It may be that if you'd roll back to the '60s when doctors really started doing a lot of these, they weren't screening patients so well. And if a woman has unrealistic expectations or she's psychiatrically not sound, she's not a good surgical candidate. And I think in 2007, you'll have doctors screen plastic surgery patients much differently than they did 30 or 40 years ago.
VIEIRA: Well, and even forgetting about this study, I think so many people question this particular procedure and whether the folks who get it have false expectations of how it might change their life.
SNYDERMAN: The false expectations really sort of go across the board for any plastic surgery procedure. And there is a small percentage, about 10 or 15 percent of women who have something called body dysmorphic syndrome where they really hate their bodies. And it's a true psychiatric illness. And so, no matter what you do, people think they're going to come out transformed or happier on the other side. It's not about safety. It's about the fact that we have to come to terms with our bodies. And if you go in for any kind of plastic surgery, you have to have realistic expectations. If you think you're going to come out suddenly and have dates or be loved or be richer or have all your problems go away, you're not a good surgical candidate.
VIEIRA: So, but, is depression often a side effect of these surgeries?
SNYDERMAN: I don't think it's a side effect. I think it's probably underlying. And in this study, they found problems with women who were substance abusers, alcoholics and had underlying depression. And of course, not surprisingly, plastic surgery did not make those problems go away. So, 10, 15 or 20 years down the line...
VIEIRA: They still got it.
SNYDERMAN: ...women are battling with it even more, yeah.
VIEIRA: And again, just to wrap up, do you think that most doctors will say no to somebody who comes in at this point...
SNYDERMAN: Yeah, and here's why. Good surgeons say no because they don't want problem patients on the back end. If you have a patient with unrealistic expectations, you're going to have a patient who will be unhappy with you forever and ever. And no surgical fee is worth that. So you look at the good--the good plastic surgeons, they're always trying to get the temperature of patients and what they expect, and they'll tell patients no.
VIEIRA: OK, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, thank you.
SNYDERMAN: You bet, Meredith.
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