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    Cosmetic Surgery Today: Simpler, Safer, and Cheaper

    Aug. 3, 2000 (Nashville, Tenn.) -- Cosmetic surgery procedures to improve the skin's appearance seem to be changing faster than crow's feet on a baby boomer. And it's no wonder. "It's market driven, and everyone wants to look younger," Gary D. Monheit, MD, reported here today at an international meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. "Baby boomers want results with no downtime. They want little things with big results," he adds.

    Monheit and other skin surgeons gathered to discuss, among dozens of topics, the latest and most effective treatments and procedures to soften wrinkles and rejuvenate skin.

    While technological advances have allowed the procedures to be performed more simply, safely, and less invasively than ever before, the booming economy and lower costs of many procedures are making them a reality for millions of Americans.

    "Cosmetic surgery has changed from the big surgical procedures requiring anesthesia, operating rooms with surgical risk, and significant postoperative recovery periods to simpler, less invasive procedures," Monheit says. He is an assistant professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    So what's hot? Microdermabrasion -- a procedure that "blows" crystals of aluminum oxide onto the skin and removes them with a vacuum -- is currently the most popular cosmetic procedure in the U.S. Although the procedure lacks scientific evidence to show it works, both patients and physicians have reported younger looking, smoother skin.

    James M. Spencer, MD, reported results of a small study that tested the "sand-blasting" technique. Six out of 10 of his patients reported "mild improvements," and "no one was unhappy," he says. But are results long lasting? That has yet to be proven, he says. Spencer is director of the division of dermatologic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

    Laser treatments, another popular procedure, have undergone vast improvements for cosmetic purposes as well as skin diseases. Psoriasis and vitiligo -- two disfiguring skin conditions that affect millions of Americans -- are being effectively treated with the excimer laser, which provides the benefit of UV light therapy without increasing the risk of skin cancer.

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