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Donna McWilliam/AP
A silicone gel breast implant.

Italy Moves to Stop Breast Implants for Teens

February 06, 2009 09:01 AM
by Isabel Cowles
The Italian Health Ministry is considering banning teenagers from undergoing breast augmentation surgery, citing the health risks.

Italian Teens Look to Surgery to Cure Image Problem

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The Italian government may ban breast implants for young women. Francesca Martini, the undersecretary for the Health Ministry, told reporters in Rome that the measure is meant to protect minors whose bodies may not be fully mature: “Because of the health risks of having such surgery when the mammary gland isn’t yet fully formed, we’re considering outlawing them for minors unless there are valid medical reasons.”

According to Bloomberg, 14 percent of 16- and 17-year-old Italian women said they would undergo breast augmentation surgery and 30 percent reported feeling unsatisfied with their bodies.

A study conducted in 2005 illustrated the prevalence of body image distortion in a sample of Italian adolescents of both genders: 31.6 percent of the participants considered themselves overweight while another 4.4 percent believed they were heavily overweight. Using BMI standards, researchers found that only 9.2 percent of the sample was actually overweight, and only 1.7 percent could be considered obese.

Background: The risks of breast implants for teens

Medical complications can result from performing breast surgery before a young woman is fully mature. According to the FDA, “Many of the changes to the breast that occur with an implant cannot be undone.” Furthermore, if a teen decides to remove her implants, “she may experience dimpling, puckering, wrinkling, or other cosmetic changes.”

Teenagers who are unhappy with their appearance might be better off if they simply allowed time to pass. According to a literature review in the Journal of Adolescent Health, studies have shown that “body image improves among teenagers as they mature, whether or not they undergo cosmetic surgery.”

Related Topic: Girl dies after breast augmentation

In 2008, high school cheerleader Stephanie Kuleba died of malignant hyperthermia, a rare reaction to anesthesia, after undergoing breast implant surgery. The case drew attention to the rise in breast augmentation procedures for minors.

According to Florida station WPTV, approximately 400,000 breast augmentation procedures were performed in 2007; nearly 8,000 of those were done on individuals 18 and under, despite FDA recommendations that minors not undergo the procedure.

The FDA has approved saline breast implants for women 18 and older and silicone gel implants for women over 22; however, explains the article in the Journal of Adolescent Health, doctors can legally perform breast augmentation for teens if they obtain parental consent.

Reference: Plastic surgery information

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