Busting Out

Laura Gilbert

Unless you're putting yourself through college by waiting tables at Hooters, being small-breasted is not such a big deal most of the time. Neither Gwyneth Paltrow nor Sandra Bullock, for example, let their lack of boobage hold them back in the sex appeal department. During bathing suit season, however, it's easy for the A-cups among us to feel short-changed by the breast fairy. After all, we live in a country that believes that "Bigger is Better" when it comes to donuts (think Krispy Kremes), SUVs, and, yes, even boobs. Suddenly, the prospect of shelling out four or five grand for a pair of new, improved knockers can seem pretty appealing.

According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgeons, over a quarter of a million women underwent breast augmentation in 1999, making it by far the most popular breast surgery in the U.S.-about ten times more common than breast reductions or breast lifts.

Several factors have contributed to the increase in breast augmentations. "Most people have gotten over the fears associated with silicone gel implants, the implant companies are doing serious marketing to consumers, and the booming economy means that people have the money to spend on cosmetic surgery," says Marcel Daniels, M.D., a plastic surgeon in private practice in Long Beach, California.

There's another factor, particularly among younger women who come in for consultations: peer pressure. "The operation is more common now, so young women are more likely to have friends who are doing it," says Daniels. But if you're under eighteen, you might have to content yourself with a padded bikini for the time being. Most doctors won't perform breast augmentation surgery on girls who are under 18, even if they have their parents' okay (and credit cards). Why? A woman's breasts can continue to grow until the age of eighteen. (Breast reductions, performed to relieve the medical problems associated with very large breasts, are routinely and successfully performed on women under the age of eighteen).

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