Suicide and Breast Implants – DUNCAN DONUTS – Sep 11(6/7)

I have not forgotten you, little thread! Here is something small before I post something more interesting/salient:

Suicide and Breast Implants

Several lawsuits were brought in the 1980s and 1990s against Dow Corning for their silicone breast implants. They were theorized to cause, among other things, breast cancer, lupus, arthritis, and some neurological conditions. Dow Corning settled in 1998, which is a shame because the suits were bullshit (determined by independent studies and the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine). In the meantime, silicone implants were banned by the FDA, which made plastic surgeons and other doctors unhappy because they are better than the saline-filled ones. In 2003, hearings were held to get them re-instated (they were).

Dr. Joiner was called to testify about the link between suicidality and brest implants, a link found to be spurious by several studies and is officially claimed as such by the American Association of Suicidology. 4 studies of American and Canadian women show a strong link between breast augmentation and suicidal behavior, showing that there is a positive correlation between the two. As I said, the relationship is spurious – breast implants are overwhelmingly purchased (upwards of 95%) by white women, who are at a higher risk of suicide than any other ethnicity. Also, women who purchase implants are more likely to be smokers, who also have a higher rate of suicide than the general population. Therefore, OF COURSE comparing women who buy breast implants to the general population of women will show a higher suicide rate amongst women who purchase implants. The right variables were not controlled for.

There is no clear chemical link between silicone implants and suicidality – that is, nothing in the implants is linked to suicidal behavior. The argument has been put forth, on the LF forums and others, that breast implants may lead to body dissatisfaction or are purchased by women with low self-esteem. “Slaves to the patriarchy,” etc. However, research shows that women who buy implants report greater body satisfaction than they had before the surgery. So here’s MY critique of that position: there may be a subset of women who purchase implants who do have lower self-esteem and may become disgusted with their surgeries. When I was first presented with this argument it seemed reasonable to me. However, we commonly think of implants as something that women in the sex industry and middle-aged women who are losing “it” purchase. We often forget many women who purchase implants have had masectomies, have clearly lopsided breasts that they want to have evened out, are trans women, and are independent individuals that consider the surgery very seriously and consult with medical personnel at length before getting the procedure done. Not only that, but if breast implants truly lead to suicidality then we would expect the same of women who have tummy tucks, rhinoplasty, etc. Joiner does not mention possible links between suicidality and other cosmetic surgery – as far as I know, none have been demonstrated.

9/14/2011: However, we do know that lifetime incidence of injury, including surgery, does predict suicidal behavior very weakly.