If you’ve commuted in an American city in the past decade, you’ve probably seen some kind of cheeky ad for affordable, accessible breast implants. A young woman comparing tangerines with grapefruits has greeted subway riders in New York City for the past several years. A giant close-up of cleavage promising “a gift you can both enjoy” loomed over the streets of one Utah town in 2007. Almost a decade later, a California billboard reminded women that size matters.
Boob jobs have been ubiquitous in American popular culture since the 1980s, when laws changed to allow plastic surgeons to advertise and credit cards became widely available. But safety concerns have dogged the procedure since the first silicone breast enhancements were successfully implanted by Texas surgeons in 1962. In that time, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of silicone implants and then reinstated them on the condition that the industry closely monitor their impact on patients.
Now both silicone implants and the more popular, saline-filled alternatives have found themselves under the agency’s lens again, this time over their potential links to a rare cancer and claims from patients that they cause pain, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune problems. On Tuesday, an FDA advisory committee completed two days of hearings on breast implants’ links to long-term complications, a forum that women’s advocacy groups have been demanding for years. The meetings concluded with the panel recommending that the FDA require manufacturers to provide simpler and clearer health warnings to all patients, but stopped short of encouraging a ban on any particular type of implants.