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Friday, 29 December, 2000, 00:33 GMT
Smoking 'triples skin cancer risk'
Ashtray
Increasing number of cancers linked to smoking
Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing a particular type of skin cancer, researchers have found.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is already one of the more common skin cancers, normally developing later in life.

Although more aggressive than some other skin cancers, it is very treatable, often by surgery, with 95% of cases not recurring if removed promptly.

The main cause of squamous cell carcinoma is thought to be prolonged exposure to strong sunlight.

Previous studies had suggested a link to smoking, but this research suggests a far bigger association than thought.

Dr Jan Bavinck, from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, looked at the number of smokers among a sample of 580 people diagnosed with various different types of skin cancer.

Three times the risk

He found that current smokers were 3.3 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, with a definite link between the number of cigarettes smoked daily and the chances of developing the disease.

Those who only smoked between one and 10 cigarettes a day were 2.4 time more likely, while those smoking 11-20 were three times more likely.

Those smoking 21 or more were four times more likely to get the disease.

Dr Bavinck said: "Everybody realises that sun exposure is a risk for skin cancer, but almost no-one knows that smoking is also an important, and independent, risk factor.

"Smoking is now associated with an increasing number of cancers beyond lung cancer, such as bladder, head and neck, cervical and skin cancers."

The research team conceded they did not know precisely why smoking might have this effect, but theorised that it caused damage to DNA in skin tissue, producing abnormal cell growth.

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