By Marian O’Connor

After a 15-year hiatus, silicone breast implants are back. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed silicone breast implants from the American market in 1994 due to "inadequate information" regarding their safety and longevity, but January

2007 saw their re-introduction.

Some studies have proven that small quantities of platinum may bleed through a ruptured silicone implant, but studies were lacking serious and concrete conclusions, according to the official FDA website. Since the 1960s there have been two options for those seeking breast augmentation: saline, a salt-water gel implant, and silicone, a silicone gel implant. Steven Gardner, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Santa Cruz, understands why many women prefer silicone breast implants to saline breast implants. He explains that rippling and wrinkling are more common in saline implants, making them more noticeable than silicone implants.

"[Silicone implants] look and feel more natural than saline, so most patients prefer them," he said. Following research conducted by the breast implant manufacturer Allegan, the FDA allowed silicone implants to return. The implants, however, were re-introduced on the condition that their manufacturers conduct a post-approval study following about 40,000 women for 10 years after receiving breast implants. This will produce the final evidence to judge whether silicone breast implants are indeed safe for women to use.

Because of the uncertainties that arise from the study, the FDA has put restrictions on patients that wish to receive silicone breast implants. Patients must at least 22 years old and the FDA recommends a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan every two years to detect leakage or rupturing of the implant.

Eileen Zurbriggen, a psychology lecturer at UC Santa Cruz who researches sexuality and sexual aggression, believes that many women who get breast implants do so because they feel pressured to fit a certain beauty standard.

"Plastic surgery is interesting because your body image might rise, but I don’t think it’s a given that your self-esteem will rise," Zurbriggen said. "It’s a potentially dangerous way to meet the beauty standard."

Breast augmentation was the second most performed cosmetic surgery in 2005 with 364,610 procedures, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Courtney, a literature and art history major at UCSC, believes that women should be able to decide if they want implants or not.

"It’s a social construct that you are a certain way. No one is going to be happy with their bodies, but I do feel that women should have the choice to get breast implants," she said. "I feel that the social construction of how women view their bodies should be changed, but that’s something we need to work on as a society."