Most people by this time recognize that the most important risk factor for developing skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation. But what about smoking? Does smoking cause skin cancer? Stay tuned.
Skin cancers can be separated into two groups: melanoma, the most deadly of skin cancers from which one American sadly dies every hour… and non-melanoma skin cancer. That includes squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinomas, which together, are the most common cancers in the human race. As a matter of fact, the incidence of these two skin cancers keeps increasing worldwide with an estimated two to three million new cases each year. Together they account for 97% of all skin cancers!
Conventional medical thinking has consistently been that the most important risk factors for these non-melanoma skin cancers… basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma… are age, skin type and exposure to ultraviolet radiation, including both sun exposure and tanning salons. And note that here, skin type doesn’t refer to your oil and water skin type, but instead to the Fitzpatrick skin type which correlates with your susceptibility to sun damage.
Previous studies concerning smoking and the risk of basal cell cancer have been inconsistent and inconclusive but now a new study published last month in the Archives of Dermatology demonstrates a stunning increase in the risk of squamous cell carcinoma amongst smokers. This particular type of study, which is called an epidemiologic study, is useful for revealing an association between exposure and a disease, but really doesn’t definitively establish that the exposure causes the disease. So while this study doesn’t prove that smoking causes squamous cell carcinoma, it demonstrates that smokers have much more squamous cell carcinoma than non smokers. Believe it or not… smoking seemed to be almost as important of a risk factor for this skin cancer as is all UV exposure!
So, let this be just one more reason to not smoke, and if you do smoke, let it be one more reason to make sure that you’re having at least an annual screening for skin cancer, since early detection always improves the prognosis, makes cure more probable, and usually results in a better cosmetic result.
And if you do smoke, please quit.