Teens and Breast Implants

• According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 226,170 teenagers underwent plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures in 2015. 1 Most were nonsurgical procedures such as laser hair removal and laser skin resurfacing, but breast augmentation was one of the most popular surgeries.

• Breast augmentation has become a frequently-requested high school graduation gift. How frequently is it requested, or given as a gift? Nobody really knows, since the research has not been done.

• Is it appropriate to perform cosmetic surgery on patients whose bodies are still maturing? Breast development can continue into the late teens and early twenties, so girls who think they need augmentation now might change their mind later.

• There are no epidemiological studies or clinical trials on the safety and long-term risks of breast implants and liposuction on patients under 18. So, the risks are unknown.

• Although the FDA approved silicone gel breast implants only for women ages 21 and older, and saline breast implants only for women 18 and older, there are no legal restrictions on the procedure. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has an official position against breast augmentation for most teens under 18, but there is no enforcement. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has no official position regarding augmentation for teenagers.

• Research has shown that of all age groups, teenagers are the most likely to be dissatisfied with their appearance — and that the dissatisfaction lessens with age. A long-term study conducted on both boys and girls ages 11-18 found that body image satisfaction was highest at age 18 for both boys and girls. In other words, older teens feel better about their bodies than younger teens.2 The study also found that the features participants were most dissatisfied with reflected the culturally determined stereotypes emphasized in books, mass media and advertisements.

• Breast augmentation has a very high complication rate that often requires additional surgery within five to ten years.3 , 4 For a girl of 18, that means she will probably need another surgery while she is in her 20s, her 30s, and every decade after that.

• Based on the implant makers’ own studies, the FDA concluded that about 40% of augmentation patients have at least one serious complication within three years after getting their implants. 4

• Breast pain, breast hardness, and numbness in the nipple area are common complications that may last for years, and may never go away.3

• According to studies by the National Cancer Institute and other researchers, breast augmentation patients are four times more likely to commit suicide compared to other women of the same age, including former plastic surgery patients of the same age.5 The risk of lung cancer and some other cancers also is higher for breast augmentation patients compared to similar women without implants.

• Health insurance usually will not pay for the necessary treatment or corrective surgeries for breast implant problems. Teens may not think about their future financial security, since their main concern is the immediate gratification of fixing a perceived problem with their bodies. But fixing implant problems costs thousands of dollars each time, so these financial considerations are important.

• Breast implants interfere with mammography, obscuring 55% of breast tumors, on average.6

• Breast implant surgery sometimes causes infections leading to toxic shock syndrome, amputation or death.7

• Women who have breast implants are less likely to have enough milk to be able to breastfeed, compared to women who have not had breast surgery. 8

• If a teenager changes her mind and has her implants removed a few years later, her breasts are likely to look stretched-out and saggy. 9 This is especially true for women with larger implants.





  1. Society of Plastic Surgeons 2015 Cosmetic Surgery Age Distribution, 13-19, https://d2wirczt3b6wjm.cloudfront.net/News/Statistics/2015/plastic-surgery-statistics-full-report-2015.pdf  
  2. Rauste-von Wright, Maijaliisa. Body Image Satisfaction in Adolescent Girls and Bodys: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1989: Vol 18(1) p. 78, 81  
  3. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm064453.pdf  
  4. http://www.breastimplantinfo.org/augment/ibrief-aug042003.html  
  5. http://www.nci.nih.gov/newscenter/siliconefactsheet  
  6. Miglioretti DL, Rutter CM, Geller BM, et al. Effects of Breast Augmentation on the Accuracy of Mammography and Cancer Characteristics, JAMA, 2004; 291: 442-50  
  7. Poblete JV, Rodgers JA, Wolfort FG. Toxic shock syndrome as a complication of breast prostheses. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1995;96:1702-1708  
  8. Institute of Medicine. Safety of Silicone Implants, 1999; Washington D.C.; National Academy Press  
  9. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/UCM064348