Log In
Thursday 27th October 2016

Smoking boosts skin cancer risk in women

20th December 2011

Women who smoke have a higher skin cancer risk, according to a recent US study.


The researchers found a statistical link between skin cancer and tobacco use in women.

The health of men's skin does not seem to be affected by smoking in the same way, so the association may have to do with female hormones.

Nevertheless, men are more likely to get skin cancer overall, and there was a weaker (non-statistically significant) link between men and skin cancer.

Dana Rollison, the lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at the Moffitt Cancer Centre in Florida, said that she and her colleagues could not explain the difference between the genders, as far as risk was concerned.

She said that men's skin might be more sensitive to sun exposure than women's overall, making their overall risk higher, but could not account for the raised skin cancer risk in women who smoke.

In the study, the researchers found that women who had smoked for at least 20 years were twice as likely to develop squamous cell skin cancer, which is less agressive than melanoma.

Rollison said that lung cancer research may hint as to why the same substance would affect men and women differently.

She said that previous studies on lung cancer patients had shown that nicotine metabolises differently in the presence of different hormones, and that cell damage was also affected by hormonal differences.

For the purposes of the study, 383 patients with skin cancer were given questionnaires, as were 315 statistically-matched people who did not have skin cancer.

The researchers asked patients how many cigarettes they smoked, when they had started smoking, and the total number of years they had smoked.

All of the study subjects had white skin, since white skin predisposes people to skin cancer.

The researchers made sure to balance the number of women and men, though there were 12 more men than women.

They also made separate analyses of the risks of both types of non-melanoma skin cancer, in case there were other unknown risk factors at work.

After all of that, the researchers found there was a fairly clear association between smoking and skin cancer in both sexes.

Men who had basal cell skin cancer were more likely to have smoked for at least 20 years.

Jeffrey Dover, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University Medical School, said that the reason why men were more likely to get skin cancer could have to do with sunscreen use.

He said that, although it could just be a genetic difference between men and women, men tended to have more unprotected sun exposure in their lives.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer in many countries.

Squamous cell cancer can spread to other organs.

Basal cell skin cancer does not spread to other organs, and is the most common of the two non-melanoma skin cancers.

Dover said that the finding did not surprise him, since researchers had shown that cigarette smoke contained carcinogens.


Share this page


There are no comments for this article, be the first to comment!

Post your comment

Only registered users can comment. Fill in your e-mail address for quick registration.

Your email address:

Your comment will be checked by a Healthcare Today moderator before it is published on the site.

Mayden - Innovative cloud-based applications for healthcare
© Mayden Foundation 2016