Medical Examiner

We Must Increase Our Bust

A history of breast enhancement, told in patent drawings.

At a public hearing today, the Food and Drug Administration will again take up the question of silicone breast implants, which the agency asked manufacturers to withdraw from the market in 1992 because of fears that they gave rise to autoimmune disease and other complications. Inamed and Mentor corporations, makers of different and relatively new types of silicone implants, hope the FDA will see its way toward approving their products. While the traditional silicone implant was liquid encased in a single, large envelope, the new generation of implants resembles a fistful of Gummi Bears. In theory, because of its firmer quality, the silicone is less likely to break down and migrate to other parts of the body.

The marriage of American ingenuity and breast obsession long predates today’s debate over silicone. Click here for a slide-show essay on the history.