Women who smoke for 20 years are twice as likely to develop disfiguring form of skin cancer

Women who smoke raise their risk of the skin cancer squamous cell carcinoma

Women who smoke raise their risk of the skin cancer squamous cell carcinoma

Women who smoke are more likely to suffer from skin cancer, scientists say.

Females are at greater risk than men of being diagnosed with a form of the disease that can spread to other organs.

And women who have smoked for 20 years or more are twice as likely to get the disease.

A team investigated the relationship between smoking and non-melanoma skin cancers – in the outer part of the skin – including squamous cell carcinomas (SCC).

SCC has a substantial risk of spreading from one organ to another. Developing on the face around the ears or lips, it can erode and completely destroy the nose or ear if left untreated. However, this is uncommon in the early stages and most are treated before any spread occurs.

In the study, smoking histories were assessed and compared between patients diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers, and a group of patients who didn”t have skin cancer or any history of the condition.

The 698 participants were asked about their smoking behaviours in terms of years smoked, how many cigarettes per day they smoked and when those who once smoked quit smoking.

The results showed that the risk increased with numbers of cigarettes per day and total years of smoking although most of the associations were not statistically significant.

However, SCC was found to be two times as likely in women who had smoked for 20 years or more compared to controls.

Lead author Dr Dana Rollison at the Moffitt Cancer Centre in Tampa, Florida, said: “Highly statistically significant associations were observed with SCC.”

She said it was not clear why women smokers should be more likely than men to be diagnosed with SCC, but noted women have more active ‘CYP enzyme’ activity in the lung – which metabolises most of the nicotine.

She said: “Observations from the lung cancer literature may provide possible explanations for why smoking was a higher risk for SCC in women.”

She said women smokers had a higher lung cancer risk than men, which may be because they have more enzyme activity that is associated with breaking down nicotine in the organ.

Women have also been shown to have higher levels of a piece of DNA bonded to a cancer-causing chemical, which could be the start of a cancerous cell, as well as lower levels of DNA repair – where enzymes repair mutations in the DNA – in the lung compared to men, she said.

She added: “Further study is needed to shed more light on the sex-based differences and the role of smoking in non-melanoma skin cancers.”

The results are published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control.