Jeremy Laurance: Clients come second to commercial interests

The cosmetic surgery industry is booming as the use of artificial means to improve appearance has become increasingly accepted

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Women have sought to enhance their natural assets for more than a century. Paraffin injections, beeswax, ivory balls and silk have all been used to boost the bust.

Modern materials in the last 20 years have included soy-bean oil, hydrogel, saline solution and silicone – but problems keep occurring. Hydrogel and soy-bean oil implants were withdrawn a decade ago over safety fears and compensation was paid to thousands of affected women.

Despite this, the cosmetic surgery industry is booming as the use of artificial means to improve appearance has become increasingly accepted. It is almost exclusively done in the private sector where cowboy surgeons operating from poorly regulated clinics use hard-sell techniques to entice women.

A report by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) in 2010 concluded that four out of five clinics offering complex surgery carried out too few operations to maintain their skills. It criticised the "have a go" culture of the clinics and called for the Care Quality Commission to tighten controls.

One of the fiercest critics of the industry is the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, whose members carry out about one-third of all cosmetic surgery procedures. It is demanding EU-wide controls to "clean up" the clinics and raise standards.

The latest alarm over PIP implants, made with cheap industrial silicone allegedly to boost profits, highlights what we already know. This is an industry prepared to put commercial interests ahead of the safety of its clients.

If you are toying with the idea of a new year makeover, be warned.

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