Smoking Linked to Skin Cancer

skin cancer and smoking

Photo © Alexander Ivanov

Researchers from Florida’s Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of South Florida have discovered that squamous cell skin cancer is linked to cigarette smoking among both men and women.

The study was carried out among several cancer clinics, which screened cancer patients for smoking. 383 patients with skin cancer were screened and compared with 315 skin cancer-free volunteers. All were caucasian, and fairly evenly divided between men and women.

Those who smoked at some point in their lives were twice as likely to have squamous cell skin cancer. Women had the highest risk, with three times the squamous cell skin cancer for smokers.

The study also found that smoking more cigarettes per day and smoking for more years increased the incidence of squamous cell skin cancer.

While increased risk of basal cell cancer was considered less significant, men who smoked more than 20 years had a 90% greater risk of basal cell cancer.

Both basal and squamous cell cancers are non-melanomas. Basal cell skin cancer incidence is higher than squamous cell cancer in the U.S. Basal cell cancers take place in the layer under the epidermis, the dermis, while squamous cell cancer grows in the top-most layer of skin, the epidermis. Basal cell cancers do not readily spread to other organs, while squamous cell cancer often spreads among other organs of the body, and is thus more dangerous of the two.

This research points to the effects of the more than 1,000 toxins that many cigarettes contain, in addition to nicotine. Dr. Dana Rollison, the lead researcher in the study, suggested that nicotine may metabolize differently in the presence of greater estrogen, which could explain why women smokers were more vulnerable to squamous cell carcinoma.

After years of blindly blaming the sun for all skin cancers, despite research showing that skin cancer rates are lower among regions with more sun, this research confirms that skin cancer is much more complicated than simply exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun.

Learn more about the real causes of skin cancer and the health benefits of safe sunbathing.


Rollison DE, Iannacone MR, Messina JL, Glass LF, Giuliano AR, Roetzheim RG, Cherpelis BS, Fenske NA, Jonathan KA, Sondak VK. Case-control study of smoking and non-melanoma skin cancer. Cancer Causes Control. 2011 Nov 19.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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