Representation of African American Patients in Social Media for Breast Reconstruction

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2021 Dec 1;148(6):1214-1220. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000008584.


Background: Social media use by plastic surgeons may contribute to the overall increase in breast reconstruction in the United States. However, recent data show a concerning decrease in breast reconstruction in African American women. The purpose of this study was to analyze the inclusion of African American women in social media posts for breast reconstruction, with the premise that this may be a possible contributing factor to decreasing rates of breast reconstruction in this population.

Methods: Data from several social media platforms were obtained manually on December 1, 2019. Each image was analyzed using the Fitzpatrick scale as a guide.

Results: A total of 2580 photographs were included that met the authors' criteria. Only 172 photographs (6.7 percent) were nonwhite. This study surveyed 543 surgeons, 5 percent of whom were nonwhite. The analysis of the results from the random sample of the top plastic surgery social media influencers showed that only 22 (5 percent) of the photographs uploaded were nonwhite patients. Furthermore, 30 percent of surgeons did not have any photographs of nonwhite patients uploaded.

Conclusions: Numerous factors can contribute to the disparity between the growing trend of white patients seeking reconstructive surgery compared to the decreasing trend of African American patients, one of which may be the disparity in their representation in social media, particularly among common platforms and social media influencers. This study highlights the evolving factors that may impair African American breast cancer patients' access to safe, effective breast reconstruction, which must be identified and resolved.

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / economics
  • Mammaplasty / education
  • Mammaplasty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Marketing of Health Services / methods
  • Marketing of Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mastectomy / adverse effects
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Patient Education as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Photography / statistics & numerical data
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States