Have you ever known siblings with a few years between them? One smokes and one doesn’t. Chances are that if you look at the non-smoking sibling as compared to their brother or sister who smokes, you are going to notice a huge difference in appearance. The sibling who does not smoke will quite often look much younger than the sibling who smokes even if they are the older sibling. The individual who smokes will probably show more signs of aging as in wrinkled and saggy skin. Over time this difference will become more and more noticeable.
There is much evidence for what we casually observe about smokers and skin aging. I had reported about recent research into skin aging in my post, “New Study Pinpoints Factors Involved in Skin Aging.” Researchers looked at twins to identify environmental factors responsible for photodamage to the skin including signs such as wrinkles and hyperpigmentation (age spots). Along with a history of skin cancer, and being overweight, smoking was cited as a major contributor to premature aging of the skin. Some estimates say that by the age of 70 years, smoking 30 cigarettes a day could lead to the equivalent of an extra 14 years of skin aging.
It seems that smoking not only causes facial skin to prematurely age but also affects skin all over the body. There are studies to show that smoking is also linked with aging of the skin not usually exposed to sunlight. A 2007 study reported in the March issue of the journal, Archives of Dermatology, looked at non-facial skin that was usually protected from the sun as in the inside of the upper arm. Doctor Yolanda Helfrich, the lead researcher of this study, concluded that the total number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day and the total years a person has been smoking is linked with the amount of skin damage that person experiences. So in addition to wrinkles and discolored facial skin you can also experience premature aging of all the skin on your body due to smoking. If this doesn’t deter you from smoking there is also the link between smoking and skin cancer.
In one of my recent skin cancer prevention posts I cited research from The American Cancer Society which shows that smokers are more than three times as likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma than nonsmokers. Squamous cell carcinoma can be deadly and approximately 2,000 deaths each year occur due to non-melanoma skin cancers.
Another adverse effect of smoking for your skin is that it impairs your skin’s ability to heal from injury. If you have had any type of skin cancer surgery smoking can greatly hinder the healing process. Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict, causing reduced blood flow. This reduction in blood flow decreases oxygen to the wound and prevents a more speedy recovery process.
The more you smoke the more you are also at risk for developing a chronic skin condition called psoriasis. In a 2007 longitudinal study reported in The American Journal of Medicine, researchers found that psoriasis was 37% higher among past smokers and 78% higher among current smokers than in women who had never smoked. The researchers also found that secondhand smoke was also associated with an increased risk of psoriasis especially exposure during pregnancy or childhood. Quitting smoking does help decrease your odds for developing psoriasis but takes a considerable amount of time to make those odds equivalent to non-smokers. It takes twenty years of smoking cessation to decrease that risk to that of a non-smoker.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you want to see what smoking can do to your skin you can visit the New Zealand Dermatological Society website to get a more dramatic view of the damage caused by smoking. Be warned that the images are graphic.
Stopping smoking can be extraordinarily difficult as it is a very tough addiction to break. But we here at Health Central can help you in your efforts to quit smoking with information, resources and support. The following are some articles to help you on your quest for better health.
If you are a smoker who is trying to quit we would love to hear your story. What is working for you? Your story could help someone else who is struggling to end their nicotine addiction. At Health Central it is all about community and support. We hope to hear from you!
Published On: June 14, 2010