WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Dec. 21, 2009 -- Smoking and weight are tied to sun damage and aging of skin
on the face, a new study shows.
Long-term exposure to the sun causes physical and structural changes to the
skin, resulting in photodamage. And photodamage causes coarsely wrinkled skin,
color changes, and dilated small blood vessels on the face, according to
Kathryn J. Martires of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and
The researchers studied 65 pairs of identical and fraternal twins who
attended the 2002 Twin Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. A total of 130 twins
who ranged in age from 18 to 77 completed surveys, answering questions about
their weight, skin type, smoking and drinking habits, and history of skin
Each subject was given a photodamage score, which graded characteristics
such as wrinkling and pigmentation changes. Scores were assigned by
Factors associated with higher levels of photodamage included age, heavier
weight, smoking, and a history of skin cancer but not alcohol consumption.
"The Twins Days Festival provides a rare opportunity to study a large number
of twin pairs to control for genetic susceptibility," the researchers write.
"Among the most important results is that a history of skin cancer and
photodamage are highly associated in a population that shares genetic
This was true, the researchers say, in both identical and fraternal
"The relationships found between smoking, weight, sunscreen use, skin cancer
and photodamage in these twin pairs may help motivate the reduction of risky
behaviors," the researchers conclude.
"Few epidemiological studies of twins have adequately examined associations
between environmental factors and aging," the researchers write, noting that up
to 40% of changes that contribute to an aged appearance are due to non-genetic
Higher self-reported weight was found to be linked to photoaging, the
researchers say, though a study of Danish twins concluded that higher body mass
index was associated with less facial aging.
Martires and colleagues say excess fat may increase the skin's
susceptibility to damage, but also help mask the appearance of wrinkles in
SOURCES:News release, Case Western Reserve University.Martires, K. Archives of Dermatology, December 2009; vol 145: pp
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