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Revisiting the Debate on Breast Implants

May 28, 1999

Thank you for your informative report on the dilemmas of breast augmentation and thoughtful analysis on the problems that lead many women to have their implants removed ("Implants Made Them Feel Like Unnatural Women," April 30). In the interest of further informing the public, I would like to add a few critical facts for the record and point out that research has not proven implants safe.

Surgery for breast implants carries risks that have affected a large percentage of us. Women commonly experience chronic inflammation, hardening, contraction of scar tissue, blood clots, burning rashes and, on occasion, serious deformities. The prestigious Mayo Clinic found that one in four women will undergo additional surgeries within five years of receiving implants to correct many of these local complications.

Nor are the implants themselves risk-free. Over time, many leak and rupture, allowing silicone to migrate throughout the body. Some ruptures go undetected, exposing a woman's body to months or even years of leaking silicone. Some researchers have found evidence that silicone migrates to vital organs, i.e the liver, brain and uterus, and can also trigger an immune response. This may explain the autoimmune illnesses many implanted women suffer. Some women, like myself, experience a recovery from symptoms or alleviation of pain when the implants are removed.

Thousands of women have reported an unusual grouping of rheumatic and neurologic symptoms--severe pains, memory loss, crippling fatigue. Dr. Louise Brinton, the National Cancer Institute's chief environmental epidemiologist, is one of the scientists trying to determine if these symptoms are connected to silicone. Dr. Brinton has described the question of implant safety as "not a closed book."

Until we know the answers, caution is warranted. Thank you for creating a forum through which we can keep this dialogue alive.

For more information, readers can call the Food and Drug Administration hotline at (888) 463-6332, find breast implant information on its Web site: http://www.fda.gov. or contact Command Trust Network, 11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Box 332, West Los Angeles, CA 90064.

MARY McDONOUGH, Los Angeles

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