Smoking linked to Skin Cancer?

Smoking has long been tied to a number of cancers, and now another tumor type, skin cancer, may join that list.

A new review of data finds that lighting up may boost the risk of a common type of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Researchers sifted through the results of 25 studies conducted in 11 countries worldwide. Most of the studies included middle-aged to elderly people.


Increased Risk

This analysis revealed that smoking was associated with a 52 percent increased risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer, according to Jo Leonardi-Bee, of the U.K. Center for Tobacco Control Studies at the University of Nottingham in England

Squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas — collectively known as non-melanoma skin cancer — account for about 97 percent of all skin cancers. The incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer is rising worldwide, with about 2 to 3 million new cases each year.

The authors said they found no clear association between smoking and basal cell carcinomas.


Early Diagnosis

This study highlights the importance for Doctors to actively survey high-risk patients, including current smokers, to identify early skin cancers, since early diagnosis can improve prognosis because early lesions are simpler to treat compared with larger or neglected lesions.

This isn’t the first time smoking has been linked to skin cancer. In December, researchers reporting in the journal Cancer Causes Control said that women diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma were twice as likely to have been smokers than those who were free of the disease.

The study, led by Dana Rollison, an associate member in the Moffitt Cancer Center department of cancer epidemiology, in Tampa, Fla., also found that men who were long-term smokers were at slightly higher risk for basal cell carcinomas.

Speaking at the time, Dr. Jeffrey Dover, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University Medical School, said the findings weren’t surprising because “we know cigarette smoke contains carcinogens” and smokers are “blowing the smoke and ash around their faces all day.”

Squamous cell cancer occurs in the epidermis, the top layer of skin, and can spread to other organs. Basal cell skin cancer occurs in the dermis, the skin layer beneath the epidermis. While it does not spread to other organs, it is far more common than squamous cell cancer.

Increased risks of dying from strokes and emphysema

People regularly exposed to secondhand smoke may have increased risks of dying from strokes and emphysema as well as from heart disease and lung cancer, according to a study from China that followed people for nearly two decades.

A number of studies have found that non-smokers who regularly breathe in other people’s tobacco smoke have an increased risk of developing heart disease or certain cancers, but the links to strokes and emphysema have been relatively weaker.

The findings, which appeared in the medical journal Chest, cannot definitively prove that secondhand smoke is the culprit, but the researchers were able to account for some other key factors, such as a person’s age, education, job, and blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“This study has shown dose response relationships between secondhand smoke and major tobacco related mortality,” wrote lead researcher Yao He of Chinese PLA General Hospital in Beijing, and colleagues.

The findings are based on 910 adults who were followed over 17 years.

At the start, 44 percent said they lived with a smoker, while 53 percent said they inhaled secondhand smoke at work.

Over the following years, 249 study participants died. The risks of death from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and emphysema were all two to three times higher among people exposed to secondhand smoke.

Among men, for example, 11 percent of the 271 men exposed to secondhand smoke died of strokes. That compared with 6.5 percent of the 168 men who lived and worked in smoke-free surroundings.

The numbers of people who died of each specific cause were fairly small, which is a limitation.

But Joanna Cohen, director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the results support evidence that secondhand smoke may boost the risks of not only heart disease and certain cancers, but strokes and emphysema as well.

In the United States, the most recent Surgeon General’s report said there was “suggestive” evidence that secondhand smoke might boost people’s risk of stroke and emphysema – but the evidence was considered insufficient to say there was a “causal relationship”, Cohen noted.

“This type of study is important for adding to evidence of a causal relationship,” she said.

Cohen said it was “huge” that the information was coming from China.

“It’s the country with the most number of smokers,” she said, adding that it is trailing other nations in anti-smoking education and tobacco control

Smoking Increases the Risk of Miscarriage

There is substantial evidence that smoking increases the risk of miscarriage: the Royal College of Physicians has estimated that the risk is increased by 25 per cent.

Smoking during pregnancy is an important cause of ill-health for both mother and foetus. Besides increasing the mother’s risk for potentially serious complications, smoking during pregnancy is the largest preventable cause of foetal and infant ill health and death.

For example: one study of almost 60,000 women in Canada found a clear dose response, with the risk of miscarriage increasing with the number of cigarettes smoked. An increased risk was seen even amongst women smoking nine cigarettes or fewer daily.

In a study of nearly 1,300 Japanese women with a past pregnancy, researchers found that those who smoked heavily early in pregnancy were more than twice as likely as non-smokers to suffer a miscarriage in the first trimester.

There are many reasons for women to quit smoking before becoming pregnant. The habit has been linked to increased risks of stillbirth, preterm delivery and low birth weight.

Semen Quality and Sperm Damage Caused by Smoking

Smoking reduces the quality of semen: men who smoke have a lower sperm count than non-smokers and their semen contains a higher proportion of malformed sperm.

By-products of nicotine present in the semen of smokers have been known to reduce the mobility of sperm. and to affect their normal swimming patterns.

Genetic material in sperm cells is damaged by smoking. For example, benzoapyrene , one of the carcinogenic  components of tobacco smoke, has been found to bind to DNA in sperm, inducing mutations. This damage can persist in embryos

Smoking linked to earlier menopause

Women who smoke may hit menopause about a year earlier than those who don’t light up, according to a study that also notes an earlier menopause may influence the risk of getting bone and heart diseases.

Non-smokers hit menopause between age 46 and 51, on average. But smokers were younger when they hit menopause, between 43 and 50 overall.

During menopause, a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs and she can no longer get pregnant.

Five other studies that used a cut-off age of 50 or 51 to group women into “early” and “late” menopause. Out of more than 43,000 women in that analysis, women who smoked were 43 percent more likely than nonsmokers to have early menopause.

Both early and late menopause have been linked to health risks. Women who hit menopause late, for instance, are thought to be at higher risk of breast cancer because one risk factor for the disease is more time exposed to estrogen.

“General consensus is that earlier menopause is likely to be associated with the larger number and higher risk of postmenopausal health problems, such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and others,”

There are two theories for why smoking might mean earlier menopause, said Jennie Kline, an epidemiologist from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York. Smoking make have an effect on how women’s bodies make, or get rid of, estrogen. Alternatively, some researchers believe certain components of cigarette smoke might

Alcohol, weight and whether or not women have given birth may each also play a role in when they hit menopause, but the evidence for everything other than smoking has been mixed, Kline said.

It is also possible that the same factors that influence age at menopause may determine whether women have trouble with infertility or not, or how late they can get pregnant.

Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer

A risk factor is anything that changes your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. For example, exposing skin to strong sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer. Smoking is a risk factor for many cancers. But having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease.

Several risk factors increase your chance of developing cervical cancer. Women without any of these risk factors rarely develop cervical cancer. Although these risk factors increase the odds of developing cervical cancer, many women with these risks do not develop this disease. When a woman develops cervical cancer or pre-cancerous changes, it may not be possible to say with certainty that a particular risk factor was the cause.

In thinking about risk factors, it helps to focus on those you can change or avoid (like smoking or human papilloma virus infection), rather than those you cannot (such as your age and family history). However, it is still important to know about risk factors that cannot be changed, because it’s even more important for women who have these factors to get regular Pap tests to detect cervical cancer early.


Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Smoking exposes the body to many cancer-causing chemicals that affect organs other than the lungs. These harmful substances are absorbed through the lungs and carried in the bloodstream throughout the body. Tobacco by-products have been found in the cervical mucus of women who smoke. Researchers believe that these substances damage the DNA of cervix cells and may contribute to the development of cervical cancer. Smoking also makes the immune system less effective in fighting HPV infections.

Cigarette Smoking Increases Hormones, Disease Risk in Postmenopausal Women

Postmenopausal women who smoke cigarette tend to have elevated levels of testosterone and other hormones when compared with non-smoking women, according to a new study from researchers in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. High hormone levels place these women at risk for breast and endometrial cancer as well as type 2 diabetes

Women who stop cigarette smoking cut their risk

The health risks associated with smoking have been much researched and established to include lung cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, gum disease, high blood pressure, fertility problems, and more. In this new study, investigators explored the relationship between smoking and sex hormone levels in postmenopausal women.

A total of 2,030 postmenopausal women (aged 55-81), none of whom were using hormone therapy, participated in the study. The women were grouped according to smoking status: current, former, and never.

Women who were currently smoking had higher circulating levels of androgens (hormones that stimulate or control male characteristics; e.g., testosterone, free testosterone, androstenedione), 17-hydroxprogesterone, estradiol, and SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin; a protein that binds to testosterone and estradiol) than did “former” or “never” smokers. Women who were former smokers (quit within 1-2 years) and those who had never smoked had similar hormone levels.

These findings are important, according to Judith Brand, MSc, of University Medical Center Utrecht and the study’s lead author, as “the observed increase in sex hormone levels with cigarette use suggests that tobacco smoke, apart from its direct toxic and carcinogenic effects, may also influence chronic disease risk through hormonal mechanisms.”

Smokers who quit can expect to begin reaping the benefits of stopping almost immediately, including an improvement in blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and reduced risk of smoking-related disease. Similarly, Brand noted that “the effect of cigarette smoking appears reversible, as an almost immediate reduction in sex hormone levels was seen in women who quit using cigarettes.”

For people who still smoke, and especially postmenopausal women, this study suggests there is yet another benefit to quitting. Brand noted that “our research suggests that smoking cessation may have additional effects by modifying hormone-related disease risks.” However, because this was not the focus of the current study, further research is needed.

A successful attempt to quit smoking may depend on where women are in their monthly cycle

Those trying before ovulation were more likely to reach for a cigarette again than those trying at other times, US scientists claimed.

Writing in the journal Addiction, the researchers said differing levels of female sex hormones were to blame.

Smoking charity Quit said that women should still try to stop, regardless of the timing.

The links between different parts of the menstrual cycle and mood are well established, and there is even some evidence that women smokers tend to smoke more at some points.

The addiction to nicotine is so powerful, however, that scientists are constantly looking for ways to increase the chances of kicking the habit.

Withdrawal effect

The researchers looked at a total of 200 women, who were asked to give up smoking either in the “follicular” stage of their cycle – the period leading up to ovulation, when an egg is produced by the ovary, or the “luteal” stage, the roughly two-week stage that completes the cycle.

Each stage is marked by differences in the hormones produced by the body.

After 30 days, 86% of the women who starting trying to give up during their follicular phase had “relapsed”, and smoked at least one cigarette.

This compared to 66% of the group who had started in their luteal phase.

While the precise reasons for this remained unclear, the scientists from the University of Minnesota suggested that the hormone differences linked to the different menstrual phases could affect the severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms felt by the quitters.

Hormones might even play a role in the speed at which nicotine is removed from the bloodstream by the body, they said.

“More research is needed to understand these biological mechanisms,” they wrote.

“Our findings support an important role for ovarian hormones in nicotine addiction and smoking cessation.”

A spokesman for the charity Quit said: “Women reading this report shouldn’t panic about the findings, as there’s lots of help available regardless of the time of the month.”

CHILDREN of smokers are affected by poor air quality far more than has been previously thought, a study has found.

Research by Aberdeen University and the anti-smoking charity Ash Scotland saw monitoring devices placed in the homes of parents with children under the age of six.

The devices detected poor air quality within properties long after the mothers and fathers had stubbed out their cigarettes.

The Refresh project, which aims to reduce children’s exposure to second-hand smoke, reported that many mothers expressed surprise at the high levels of tobacco smoke measured in their homes.

The parents were also surprised that smoking in a different room or beside an open door or window gave less protection than they had assumed.

“With more than 85 % of cigarette smoke invisible to the human eye, it can be difficult to know how much smoke our children are breathing in the home,” Dr Sean Semple of the University of Aberdeen said.

“This study shows that measuring smoke in homes can help parents understand just how much is present and for how long it lingers in the air.”

23% of women enter pregnancy as smokers and more than half continue to smoke during pregnancy

It’s estimated that almost 23% of women enter pregnancy as smokers and more than half continue to smoke during pregnancy, leading to excess healthcare costs at delivery and beyond. In one of the first studies to assess smoking bans and taxes on cigarettes, along with the level of tobacco control spending, researchers have found that state tobacco control policies can be effective in curbing smoking during pregnancy, and in preventing a return to smoking within four months on average, after delivery.

The results were published online June 5 in advance of the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“This is one of the first studies of pregnant women’s smoking in the new era of more restrictive state tobacco control policies,” says lead investigator E. Kathleen Adams, PhD, Department of Health Policy and Management, Emory University. “We found that a $1.00 increase in cigarette taxes increases the quit rate among pregnant women from 44.1% to 48.9%, a sizable effect. Moreover, tax policies appear to be effective in keeping these women from relapsing in the first few months postpartum, and the implementation of a full workplace smoke-free policy also increases quits.”

Researchers from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined cigarette smoking among 225,445 women with live births from 2000-2005 in 29 states plus New York City. Data on smoking status (pre-pregnancy smoking; quitting during pregnancy; and remaining quit 4 months after delivery) were merged with cigarette price data, including federal, state, and local cigarette excise taxes, data on state tobacco control spending for the period, and the existence of full or partial bans of worksite or restaurant smoking

Investigators determined that a $1.00 increase in taxes and prices increases the probability of quitting by the last three months of pregnancy by 4.8 percentage points. The probability of having sustained nonsmoking four months after delivery is increased by 4.2 percentage points or from 21.3% to 25.5%, with a $1.00 increase in real taxes. A full ban on smoking at private worksites increased the probability of quitting smoking during pregnancy by 4-5 percentage points.

The findings did not indicate that cumulative tobacco control spending affects smoking among pregnant women. “Insignificant results on tobacco control spending may indicate that such spending needs to reach a minimum threshold recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” notes Dr. Adams. “If additional tobacco tax revenues were used by states to support implementation of smoke-free and other effective policies, then tax policy could have additional effects on prevalence of smoking and in turn, help improve birth outcomes, and reduce healthcare costs at delivery.”