Unlike damage to the heart or lungs, the effects on skin are often outwardly visible. Not only is smoking related to the development of certain skin disorders, it is a major culprit in premature ageing of the skin.
There are a number of ways smoking can affect your skin – women seem to be more susceptible to this than men and it commonly manifests as fine lines around the eyes and mouth at an earlier age than non-smokers
There is also evidence to suggest smokers have poor wound healing – a number of studies demonstrate that smoking will delay wound healing, including those created by surgery.
There are also higher rates of wound infection, decreased wound strength, skin graft failure, necrosis – or death of tissue – and blood clot formation.
Smokers are also at higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a type of skin cancer.
Even individuals who only smoke a few cigarettes a day remain at risk because it’s thought tobacco found in cigarettes acts to suppress the immune system, allowing cancer cells to evade recognition.
Whilst SCC is easily treated if found early, it does have the potential to metastasise to other parts of the body and can potentially be life-threatening.
Smokers have a higher risk of developing psoriasis, which results in dry, scaly patches on the body. Nicotine is thought to affect the immune system, potentially triggering psoriasis in those who have an underlying tendency to develop the condition.
Both hidradentis suppurativa and lupus are found more frequently in smokers, with lupus sufferers responding less well to treatment than non-smokers.
As if that was not enough, smoking enhances the risk of developing genital warts, possibly due to the immunosuppressive effects of nicotine.
Smokers also have a higher risk of developing wart virus-related cancers including cancer of the vulva, anus and penis.
So remember, if you quit smoking this New Year you will certainly feel the health benefits, with all the organs of your body – including your skin – becoming stronger and less susceptible to illness and infection.
Visit the website at www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk if you would like more information on the British Skin Foundation’s stop smoking initiative.