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Health Tips Five Reasons Why Your Skin Wants You to Stop Smoking

Leading dermatologist Dr. Joshua Fox discusses major health impact of smoking on body’s largest organ“The skin is the largest organ in the human body,” explains Joshua Fox, MD, founder of Advanced Dermatology. “Although we can do many things to care for our skin on the surface, like all of the body’s organs, the health of our skin is largely influenced by what goes into our bodies as well,” Dr. Fox notes. He adds that, over the past decade, researchers have uncovered at least five key ways in which cigarette smoking can harm the skin, from aging it prematurely to increasing the risk of a dangerous skin cancer.

( July, 2007 – While most Americans are keenly aware of the potentially deadly health consequences of cigarette smoking on the heart and lungs, many smokers don’t realize the effects that smoking can have on the health of their skin.

Five dangers smoking poses to skin health:

1, Smoking causes wrinkles, not only because of the exaggerated facial motions of inhaling and exhaling and of the special facial contortion required – pursing of the lips to hold a cigarette in your mouth, but also because cigarette smoking constricts the outermost blood vessels that feed oxygen and nutrients to skin cells. “Smoking also damages collagen and elastin, the fibrous substances that give skin its strength and elasticity,” Dr. Fox points out. As a result, skin begins to sag and wrinkle prematurely. In fact, according to a study from the Mayo Clinic, this type of damage can occur after just ten years of smoking, and it’s irreversible.

2. Smoking discolors the skin, partly because of the lack of oxygenation at the skin’s surface. Facial skin can also become sallow or yellowish due to repeated close exposure to the heat and smoke of lit cigarettes.

3. Smoking can cause skin irritation, due to the more than 4,000 chemical compounds in cigarette smoke. Most are irritants, many are toxic, and at least 40 are known carcinogens, or cancer-causing chemicals. While such conditions as acne have never been proven to be caused or exacerbated by cigarette smoke, simple irritation, itching, burning and rashes – particularly in more sensitive areas such as around the eyes or lips – can occur from exposure to smoke.

4. Smoking prematurely ages more than just facial skin. Researchers from the University of Michigan compared the skin of the inner arms of smokers (which is not exposed to the sun – the main culprit in premature aging of the skin) to that of non- smokers. They found that the amount of premature skin aging and wrinkling correlated to how much each study participant had smoked and for how long. The study, which was published in the March issue of the Archives of Dermatology, concludes that the skin on the entire body ages prematurely due to the blood vessel constriction and lack of oxygenation associated with smoking.

5. Smoking triples the risk of developing a skin cancer called Squamous Cell Carcinoma a dangerous form of skin cancer that can metastasize to other parts of the body if not treated promptly. Approximately 3,000 deaths per year are as a result of this cancer. This does not include the 440,000 Americans who die of smoking-related causes such as lung cancer and heart disease each year, according to the CDC. A study conducted in the Netherlands and reported at the annual meeting of The American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2001 demonstrated a dose-dependent relationship between smoking and a risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma. Those who smoked more than a pack a day, in fact, had four times the rate of Squamous Cell carcinomas than non-smokers.

The Good News
Although there are some effects of smoking on the skin that may never completely diminish, for the most part, quitting smoking now will greatly improve the health and appearance of the skin,” Dr. Fox assures. For instance, while some fine wrinkling may be permanent, blood flow increases markedly and quickly after smokers quit. With better oxygenation and nutrient delivery to the skin’s surface, and without the smoky chemicals to irritate it, the skin’s tone and color will improve. Quitting smoking can also dramatically reduce the risk of developing Squamous Cell carcinoma, according to the ASCO study, from a tripled risk to a doubled risk.

“We’ve known for decades that the overall health benefits of quitting smoking are extensive, and now we can add improved skin health to the list of myriad reasons every smoker should quit today,” Dr. Fox concludes.

( July, 2007 – While most Americans are keenly aware of the potentially deadly health consequences of cigarette smoking on the heart and lungs, many smokers don’t realize the effects that smoking can have on the health of their skin.

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