Tell Patients Cigarette Smoking Ages Their Skin

Internal Medicine World Report, October 2007, Volume 0, Issue 0

by Rebekah McCallister

Arch Dermatol.

Physicians and patients are well aware of the damaging effects of cigarette smoking on the body. But it is less well-known that smoking has visible effects on the skin, and the more one smokes, the more his/her skin will age. This new information, which may be another way to convince some patients to give up smoking, is based on findings from a recent study that showed smoking is associated with skin aging, even in areas that are not normally exposed to sunlight ( 2007;143:397-402).

The investigators developed a photonumeric scale to measure the degree of skin aging. The 9-point scale used information obtained from photographs of the skin on the inside of the upper arm in 77 patients aged 22 to 91 years.

Data were collected from interviews with the participants about their age, ethnicity, history of cigarette smoking, use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs and dietary or herbal supplements, sun exposure, sunscreen/tanning bed use, and, for women, the use of hormone therapy and oral contraceptives. Among current or former smokers, average smoking duration was about 24 years.

Among all participants aged ≥45 years, the degree of skin aging was greater in smokers than in nonsmokers. In the 45- to 60-year-old age-group, average scores were >2 in smokers and < 1 in nonsmokers. In the ≥65 age-group, average scores were 6 in smokers and 4 in nonsmokers.

"We...found that the total number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day and the total years a person has smoked were linked with the amount of skin damage a person experienced," said lead author Yolanda R. Helfrich, MD, of the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor.