It's not just your face - smoking ages skin: study

CHICAGO Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:48pm EDT

A woman smokes in this February 7, 2007 file photo. Smoking not only can wrinkle the face and turn it yellow -- it can do the same to the whole body, researchers reported on Monday. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A woman smokes in this February 7, 2007 file photo. Smoking not only can wrinkle the face and turn it yellow -- it can do the same to the whole body, researchers reported on Monday.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Smoking not only can wrinkle the face and turn it yellow -- it can do the same to the whole body, researchers reported on Monday.

The study, published in the Archives of Dermatology, shows that smoking affects the skin all over the body -- even skin protected from the sun.

"We examined non-facial skin that was protected from the sun, and found that the total number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day and the total years a person has smoked were linked with the amount of skin damage a person experienced," Dr. Yolanda Helfrich of the University of Michigan, who led the study, said in a statement.

"In participants older than 65 years, smokers had significantly more fine wrinkling than nonsmokers. Similar findings were seen in participants aged 45 to 65 years," Helfrich's team added in their report.

The researchers tested 82 people, smokers and nonsmokers, taking pictures of the inner right arms. They ranged in age from 22 to 91 and half were smokers

Independent judges decided how wrinkled each person's skin was.

When skin is exposed to sunlight, notably the face, it becomes coarse, wrinkled and discolored with a pale yellow tint, Helfrich's team wrote.

Several previous studies have found that cigarette smoking contributes to premature skin aging as measured by facial wrinkles, the study said, but little has been done to measure the aging of skin not exposed to light.

The report did not discuss the mechanism involved but previous research has found that cigarette smoke, among other things, causes blood vessels beneath the skin to constrict, reducing blood supply to the skin.

Smoking can also damage the connective tissue that supports both the skin and the internal organs.

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