Epidemiologic studies indicate that women with cosmetic breast implants have a significantly increased risk of suicide. Our objectives were to examine mortality among Danish women who underwent cosmetic breast implant surgery and to evaluate the baseline prevalence of psychopathological disorders as measured by admission to a psychiatric hospital among women seeking cosmetic surgery.
Cohort study of 2761 women who underwent cosmetic breast implant surgery at private clinics of plastic surgery or public hospitals, 7071 women who underwent breast reduction surgery at public hospitals, and 1736 women who attended private clinics for cosmetic surgery other than breast implantation, between 1973 and 1995. Causes of death through 1999 were identified through the Danish Mortality Files. Information on admission to psychiatric hospitals prior to cosmetic surgery was obtained from the Danish Psychiatric Central Register.
Women with cosmetic breast implants had significantly elevated standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) for death overall (SMR, 1.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-1.7), nonmalignant lung disease (3.4; 95% CI, 1.4-6.9), and suicide (SMR, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.7-5.2). Women who underwent breast reduction exhibited low SMRs for death overall (0.7; 95% CI, 0.7-0.8) and several specific causes, including breast cancer (0.4; 95% CI, 0.2-0.6), whereas death from suicide was moderately above expectation (SMR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.0-2.5). The prevalence of psychiatric admission prior to cosmetic surgery was higher among women who underwent cosmetic breast implant surgery (8.0%; 95% CI, 7.0%-9.0%) than among women who underwent breast reduction (4.7%; 95% CI, 4.2%-5.2%) or other cosmetic procedures (5.5%; 95% CI, 4.5%-6.7%). When compared with all control groups, women with cosmetic implants had an odds ratio for prior psychiatric admission of 1.7 (95% CI, 1.4-2.0).
Danish women with cosmetic breast implants experienced higher overall mortality compared with women in the general population owing in part to a 3-fold increase in suicide. Women with breast reduction had a low total and cause-specific mortality but a moderate excess risk of suicide. For the first time, to our knowledge, we found evidence of an increased prevalence of mental illness as measured by admission to a psychiatric hospital prior to implant surgery among women receiving cosmetic breast implants. Studies are needed to clarify the underlying reasons for the consistently reported 2- to 3-fold excess of suicide among women with cosmetic breast implants.