Smoking Boosts Skin Cancer Risk

Smokers beware: in addition to raising your odds of developing lung cancer, strokes, and heart attacks, smoking also boosts your risk of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by 52 percent, according to a major new study. SCC, the second most common skin cancer, affects an estimated 700,000 people in the US annually.

The authors of the meta-analysis (study of multiple studies), appearing in Archives of Dermatology, found that even those who smoke just a few cigarettes a day are affected. They suspect that smokers’ increased risk can be attributed to tobacco’s harmful effect on the immune system, since people with damaged or suppressed immune systems are much more likely to develop skin cancers. (Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, which is associated with about 90 percent of NMSCs, also suppresses the immune system.)

While SCC is generally easily treatable when caught in a timely manner, it occasionally spreads and may become life-threatening if allowed to advance. The disease will kill approximately 2,500 people in the US this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost one in five American adults are smokers. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting — it will benefit not just your heart, lungs and brain, but also your skin.

Published on December 19, 2012