Someday the warning on a package of cigarettes might add another wrinkle.
Sure, smokes may be hazardous to your health. But now University of Utah researchers say smokers also risk premature aging.For years, doctors observed that smokers appear to have more wrinkles, said Dr. Donald Kadunce, a U. dermatologist. Kadunce and other researchers questioned and photographed 132 people, including 25 heavy smokers.
When examining photographs of the subjects' right temple area, smokers were easy to distinguish. "What we look for is wrinkling basically in excess of age," Kadunce said. "People who smoke are 31/2 times more likely to end up in the more heavily wrinkled categories."
A report of the Utah research is published in a medical journal, the Annals of Internal Medicine. According to the study, the combination of smoking and sun exposure speeds aging effects, Kadunce said. "If you add smoking and sun exposure together, it's a 12-fold additive. The effects augment one another."
In addition, the wrinkles that smokers develop are in a more complex pattern. "They're not just simple crow's feet, where crow's feet radiate out from the eye. These appear to be a more complex pattern, more cross-hatching."
Kadunce said researchers don't know exactly what causes wrinkles. But they do know that the toxic substances in cigarettes cause a breakdown in the enzymes and supporting tissues of the lungs. Maybe that same substance works to break down the skin, too. Or maybe all the smoke from the cigarette causes people to squint more often, forming a wrinkling pattern.
Whatever the reason for all the wrinkling, researchers hope that smokers will consider premature aging as motivation to quit, especially for those smokers who find the threat of death remote. "One of the reasons some people smoke is that it is a glamour-type thing, a peer pressure-type thing," Kadunce said. "They might think twice if they realize they are ultimately going to be sacrificing their appearance."