Byline: ROBIN YAPP
PLASTIC surgery boom is changing the face of Britain.
Those dissatisfied with their looks are no longer simply dreaming of transformation.
Instead, increasing numbers are choosing to go under the knife.
Latest figures show a 52 per cent increase in the number of operations carried out in a single year.
Members of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons performed 16,367 operations in the year to April 2004 - up from 10,738 in the previous 12 months. Most will have been done privately.
Although the rise can be partly attributed to an increase in those registering with the association - part of the Royal College of Surgeons - there is no doubt that more patients are opting for surgery. Less invasive procedures are even more popular. Those baulking at operations are opting for non-surgical procedures such as Botox and collagen injections.
More than 72,000 such ' beautyenhancing' cosmetic treatments are thought to be carried out each year.
The Healthcare Commission - the government watchdog monitoring many non-surgical procedures - and the Department of Health are preparing to demand better regulation of the cosmetic treatments industry.
But with celebrities showing off their implants and facelifts, and programmes such as Plastic Surgery Live, Nip/Tuck and I Want A Famous Face on TV, calls for caution may be hard to hear.
More than nine out of ten operations are performed on women but demand is growing fastest among men.
In the 12-month period, surgeons from the association carried out 1,348 procedures on men - up from 822 in the previous year.
Breast enlargement is the most popular operation for women while men tend to ask for work on their noses.
The figures, based on an annual audit of the 151 members of the association, follow warnings that many prospective patients have unrealistic expectations of what cosmetic surgery can achieve.
A spokesman for the Healthcare Commission said: 'Both the Department of Health and the Healthcare Commission want to ensure that there are some minimum standards that all these providers need to adhere to in the interest of patients.' Douglas McGeorge, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Grosvenor Nuffield Hospital in Chester and president elect of BAAPS, believes demand for surgery is driven by more than TV shows and celebrities.
He said wealthy couples in their fifties taking early retirement were often keen to change their looks.
'We live in a society where men generally grow old gracefully and women do a lot to look after their looks,' he said.
'Now people are retiring earlier to start new lives and find a place in the sun and plastic surgery generally is becoming more acceptable for men as well as for women.' firstname.lastname@example.org
COPYRIGHT 2005 Solo Syndication Limited