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Increase in breast enlargement surgery for teenage girls – let’s just blame celebrities and not address the root cause of the problem…..

March 24th, 2008

Dr Petra

Today all the papers are full of a shocking report of an 150% increase in breast enlargement surgery for teenage girls.

Statistics obtained from three of the largest cosmetic surgery chains indicate over 600 girls had the procedure last year.

Doctors at these private clinics claim the increase in demand for plastic surgery is down to young women reading about celebrities having breast enlargements in magazines and wanting bigger boobs.

Which is very worrying.

It’s hard to fault this story. Most certainly our celeb magazines are filled with reports of celebs praising their breast enlargement operations and claiming plastic surgery does everything from boost their self confidence to their sex lives. It certainly boosts their column inches also, since celeb mags are always keen to report on the latest surgery someone’s had – or speculate on whether stars have had secret boob jobs.

It’s not just in the pages of celebrity magazines we see this trend. TV Makeover shows endorse cosmetic enhancements from botox to surgery, while lads’ magazines have encouraged their readers to compete to win their girlfriend a boob job.

But it’s just too easy to blame the media as the major cosmetic chains have been doing. Surely if they were so concerned about this issue they could refuse to operate on teenage girls, withdraw their adverts from young women’s magazines, and certainly not offer surgery packages on 0% credit as many do currently.

Our bodies are still growing during our late teens and early twenties, meaning a boob job at this age may not be necessary or healthy. We still aren’t sure of the long term implications of breast enlargement surgery in otherwise healthy young women; although there is every indication that once surgery has been undertaken it may need to be repeated as the woman ages. Moreover, given how surgery can be linked to issues of confidence and self esteem it may be that a boob job is just the start of a long line of surgical procedures that cosmetic surgery businesses are allegedly notorious for promoting.

In all the press coverage I saw there was no critical analysis of this story. The press seemed to completely lap up the idea that celeb culture was wholly to blame for this trend, rather than cosmetic surgery companies being unwilling to turn down business. And while they blamed celeb culture they curiously distanced themselves from it, implying that although it was part of the media it wasn’t part of their media.

Sadly we do live in a culture where we’re encouraged to focus on our bodies and find fault with them. We don’t allow for diversity in sizes and shapes, nor celebrate bodies that haven’t gone under the knife as much as those that have.

Press reports indicate parents are now buying boob jobs for their teenage daughters as coming of age presents, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear about those parents who help their child prepare for a happy, healthy and positive future? Wouldn’t it be great if we could hear stories about people’s lives that didn’t revolve around surgery and spending? Surely there are some story angles here too?

Clearly there are some young women who due to injury or illness require surgery and I would not wish to deny them access to breast augmentation. And in relation to the population 600 young women per year having breast implants is not really so great.

However, the worrying issue is that we are seeing a year on year increase in women seeking surgery, which will leave behind an additional large figure of women dissatisfied with their bodies.

The responsible approach would be for cosmetic companies to deny plastic surgery to young women, but of course we know they’ll never do that. In the absence of them acting responsibly it would have been nice to see some investigative journalism taking a critical approach to this story. They could have called into question why it is that young girls are being given surgery they arguably do not need. Or highlighted how particular cosmetic surgery groups seemingly distracted us from their activities by blaming celebrity culture.

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