Too Young to Decide? The FDA’s Role in Regulating Breast Augmentation in Adolescents


  • Christina McCarthy Tulane University


In 2006, the FDA set a minimum age requirement of 18 for saline-filled breast implants and 22 for silicone breast implants. As a result, adolescent women who do not meet the age requirement are unable to receive implants for augmentation or reconstructive purposes. The FDA reasons that the age requirement will allow women sufficient time for their breast tissue to develop and will prevent adolescents from making an emotionally immature decision. This age limitation affects all adolescents considering augmentation procedures whether one is considering augmentation to align with their new gender identity, to enhance their breasts solely for cosmetic reasons, or to gain a new sense of confidence after receiving a mastectomy due to breast cancer. This case explores the purpose, structure, and approval process of the FDA and examines the varying motivations of adolescent women electing to undergo breast enhancement. Is the FDA limiting the population of women that can undergo breast augmentation by setting a legal age requirement for surgery? Does this affect an adolescent’s control over her bodily autonomy? How does the legal age requirement affect options available to younger transgender individuals and cancer patients? Do teens consider cosmetic breast augmentation procedures for the right reasons?