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A doctor in Sao Paulo, Brazil holds up a silicone breast implant. - 


SCOTT JAGOW: Silicone breast implants have been off the market since 1992. Thousands of women complained the implants leaked and made them sick. But after hearings last year, the FDA might allow silicone to make a comeback. Helen Palmer reports from the Health Desk at WGBH.

HELEN PALMER: Silicone breast implants have been off the market for 14 years, but plastic surgeons say women still prefer them to the saline ones currently in use.

BRUCE CUNNINGHAM: They choose the silicone gel implants feeling they're more natural and more like normal tissue.

That's plastic surgeon Bruce Cunningham. Silicone breast implants would cost more, but only add a few hundred dollars to the cost of the surgery.

CUNNINGHAM: It can be, say $6,000 on the coasts and maybe $4,000 in the Midwest.

Cunningham expects the FDA to demand extra surveillance for silicone implants. But he's convinced they're safe. Interest in them is very strong, he says. Several of his patients have decided to hold off on getting implants, just in case.

Demand for breast implants grows about 10 percent a year. In 1992 there were 32,000 breast enhancements. Last year there were nearly 300,000. That's a market worth $890 million.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.