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1 in 5 Americans want plastic surgery

In a plastic surgery poll, 46 percent of women said they'd choose Jennifer Aniston's eyes. In a plastic surgery poll, 46 percent of women said they'd choose Jennifer Aniston's eyes.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Less than 10 percent of adults in the US has ever had some type of cosmetic surgery, yet almost twice as many hope to do so at some point in the future, a survey shows.

The results suggest that trends have changed significantly since the 1960s and 1970s when cosmetic surgery was "rarely talked about," Jeff Knezovich, executive vice president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS), which sponsored the survey, told Reuters Health. Today, the topic has become a "dinner table conversation," he said.

"People are becoming more aware of cosmetic surgery and its benefits," Knezovich said, noting that an individual's change in appearance may make them feel better, which can consequently lead to their increased performance.

Conducted during July 11-16, the AACS' 2006 Consumer Perspective Survey included 1,010 interviews -- representative of over 1.4 million households -- of men and women, aged 18 to 65 years.

The almost one in five individuals who indicated that they hope to someday undergo cosmetic surgery mostly included women, young adults, and individuals who live in the Western part of the United States, survey findings indicate.

Men were not altogether opposed to the idea, however. Roughly 12 percent responded that they too aspired to undergo some type of cosmetic surgery in the future.

This interest in cosmetic surgery procedures among men is due to the work environment, according to Knezovich. These days, men are thinking: "I have to be competitive in the marketplace... (to) compete with the younger person coming in the door," he said.

Questions about the survey participants' decision making and consumer influence revealed that some of them were motivated to undergo cosmetic surgery because of their belief that an individual's appearance is key to his or her professional success. Roughly 25 percent of men, however, said that their motivation was due to the influence of a wife or girlfriend.

Few of the adults surveyed cited fear of pain as a deterrent to undergoing cosmetic surgery. Rather, more than half (54 percent) were discouraged by the potential costs that would be incurred and nearly half (48 percent) cited fears of looking unnatural or fake. More than a quarter (27 percent) also feared that they would be unhappy with the outcome of their surgery.

Many survey participants were clear about their best-loved feature of various celebrities. Forty-six percent of women indicated that they would choose Jennifer Aniston's eyes when asked "which celebrity feature they would choose as their own," and 51 percent of men said they would choose Nick Lachey's abs. Only two percent indicated that they based their decisions about cosmetic surgery on Hollywood, the media or television, however.

"It's definitely being generated by word-of-mouth," Knezovich said, adding that "the blue collars have entered the market."

Indeed, if given the means, nearly half (46 percent) of survey participants said they would use that disposable income to finance cosmetic surgery rather than an expensive vacation or luxury car.

Still, despite this interest in cosmetic surgery, about a quarter of survey participants were unaware of what a cosmetic surgeon is and only about half knew that a cosmetic surgeon is not the same as a plastic surgeon, survey findings show.

Explaining the difference, Knezovich said that physicians trained in plastic and reconstructive surgical procedures do receive limited instruction in cosmetic surgery, but cosmetic surgeons typically undergo additional post-graduate training after their formal training.

"We want the general public to understand they need to see a cosmetic surgeon trained in their area of interest," he said.

More than 236,000 invasive cosmetic procedures, ranging from facelifts to hair transplants were performed in the US in 2005, according to an AACS estimate of procedures performed by members of the academy. Many more noninvasive procedures, such as Botox or laser hair removal were also performed.

Copyright 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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