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21-06-2012 | Article

Smoking increases skin cancer risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: Individuals who smoke may be increasing their risk for developing a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, a review of published studies suggests.

The findings, published in the Archives of Dermatology, add to the long list of diseases and conditions associated with smoking.

Encouragingly, however, the association was stronger in current compared with former smokers, suggesting that quitting the habit may reduce the risk.

Around 97% of skin cancers develop in epithelial cells that cover the skin and are called either squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinomas - collectively known as nonmelanoma skin cancers. The number of people diagnosed with these types of skin cancer is increasing worldwide, with an estimated 2-3 million new cases diagnosed each year.

Dr Jo Leonardi-Bee and colleagues from the University of Nottingham in the UK searched various medical literature databases and identified 25 published studies from 11 countries that included information on smoking and other potential risk factors for nonmelanoma skin cancer.

Examination of pooled data from all of the studies indicated that smoking significantly increased the risk for squamous cell carcinoma by 52% after accounting for age, sun exposure, skin type, and other factors.

The strength of the relationship between smoking and squamous cell carcinoma was greatest among people who were current smokers, and weaker among former smokers.

The researchers found no evidence to suggest that smoking was associated with an increased risk for basal cell carcinomas.

Commenting on the association between smoking and squamous cell carcinoma, the researchers say: "The number of studies and quality of evidence included suggests this to be a reliable relationship."

They add: "This study highlights the importance for clinicians to actively survey high-risk patients, including current smokers, to identify early skin cancers, since early diagnosis can improve prognosis."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Mark Cowen