Feature: Are older generations forming a cosmetic surgery boom?

4 November 2011

Cosmetic surgery has seen an increase in popularity in recent years with people still opting to go under the knife despite the crumbling walls of the recession hitting purses hard. Last year alone, higher numbers of people went to see their surgeon about getting a procedure, with the amount of breast implants going up and chin surgeries going down.

Non-surgical treatments, which prove to temporarily halt the signs of ageing, such as Botox, have also seen a dramatic increase with many professionals treating men and women with the forehead injections in "lunchtime booster" sessions.

According to recent reports, the amount of elderly people turning to surgery has dramatically increased. Dubbed typical first-time plastic-surgery candidates, more and more older people have decided to reverse signs that they have aged through cosmetic procedures.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery released figures that showed elective cosmetic procedures among patients aged 65 and older, both surgical and non-surgical, rose by 29 per cent from 2005 to 2010, to more than 680,000 cases.

In the UK, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) found that 38,274 procedures were done for men and women in 2010, compared with 36,482 in 2009, a rise of five per cent. The figures showed that women accounted for 34,413 of the surgeries, while men accounted for ten per cent.

Dr Remus Repta, a plastic surgeon at John C Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix, said: "The older population is going to be more facelift, necklift and browlift. Sometimes they want less invasive surgeries like skin resurfacing for all of the sun damage that they've acquired. But generally, it's shoulders and up."

While many younger patients would opt for breast surgery - the most popular type of cosmetic procedure in the UK - older individuals are looking for something else, often focusing on looking younger rather than more enhanced, according to the doctor.

Plastic surgeons say candidates of any age for cosmetic procedures, but especially older ones, should consult not only their family doctor but more than one specialist about their appearance goals and other issues, such as the condition of their skin and its potential for relatively quick healing.

Although plastic surgery may be an option for the older generation, a new study has also opened doors to show a different method which focuses on the behaviour of cells.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in the US found that the onset of wrinkles, muscle wasting and cataracts has been delayed and even eliminated in mice.

The scientists found a way to "flush away" cells that had stopped dividing, which can cause the complexion to age. These senescent cells, which accumulate naturally with age, were cleared using a specially developed drug and the researchers witnessed the "fascinating" effects soon after.

Published in the journal Nature, the study raised the tantalising prospect of slowing the signs of ageing in humans, but the scientists were quick to point out that more research needs to be done before the procedure is tested on people as the cells cannot be removed from humans as easily as in the research.

Leader of the study Dr Jan van Deursen told the BBC: "We were very surprised by the very profound effect. I really think this is very significant."

"I'm very optimistic that this could really have an impact. Nobody wants to live longer if the quality of life is poor. If you can prime the immune system, boost it a little bit, to make sure senescent cells are removed, that might be all it needs."

Halting the signs of ageing seems to have become a trend in recent years, with Britons spending around £2.3 billion a year on cosmetic treatments, including Botox, chemical peels and laser treatments.

Demand has risen by 17 per cent in the past two years and in 2009 loans of up to nearly £5 million were taken out to pay for those sought-after operations.

Rajiv Grover, consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS president elect, concluded: "In times of financial hardship patients are looking for the real deal, for treatments which deliver a reliable, long-lasting result and have a proven safety record."

Posted by Jeanette Royston

Van Deursen, Jan, et al., "Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive senescent cells delays ageing-associated disorders", Nature, November 2nd 2011


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