More teens opt for plastic surgery

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It's not just Hollywood sirens and 50-something country-clubbers who are going under the knife.

In the United States, teenage cosmetic surgeries nearly doubled between 1996 and 1998, from 13,699 to 24,623, according to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.

Under pressure to look good and be admired by peers, teens are seeking breast enlargements and reductions, nose and ear reshaping, and liposuction. As costs come down, and overall discretionary spending in American families goes up, these procedures become more available to teens.

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Despite the increase in numbers of teens undergoing cosmetic surgery, they remain a small percentage of all such patients. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, teens accounted for only 3.1 percent of the nearly 2.8 million cosmetic procedures performed in 1998.

But sociologists and those who study adolescent behavior are troubled by the trend. They argue that teens, who have not really grown into their bodies physically or emotionally, are setting themselves up for disappointment and a lifetime of such treatments. The message is that kids can, with enough money, change their bodies for the better. (In New York, for example, a "nose job" can cost about $6,500, and is not usually covered by health insurance.)

Proponents argue that teens are particularly sensitive about their bodies, and that plastic surgery, on a mature patient, can improve self-esteem and social acceptance.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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