New research has revealed that smoking may pose yet another health risk, especially for women. Squamous cell carcinoma is a serious form of skin cancer that affects 700,000 people each year.

A study conducted by the University of South Florida's H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute surveyed nearly 700 men and women who had been diagnosed with the non-melanoma skin cancers: Basil cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Subjects were questioned about their current and past smoking habits: How much, for how long, and when and if they'd quit. Results showed that smoking slightly increased the incidence of both kinds of cancers in men and women. However, women who were current or past smokers demonstrated a much higher incidence of squamous cell carcinoma. In fact, women who had developed squamous cell carcinoma were four times as likely to have smoked for 20 years or more.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common kind of skin cancer. Usually it appears as a red, scaly patch or sore and is most common on areas of the body most often exposed to the sun like the face, neck, and arms, though it can occur anywhere including the genital area. When detected early, it is almost always treatable, but the various processes for excising these carcinomas can be painful and disfiguring. Cases that are detected late do run the risk of metastasizing into more dangerous cancers. About 2,500 people die every year from squamous cell carcinoma.

Researchers are not sure why this squamous cell carcinoma risk affects women so pointedly, but smoking has manifested its cancer risk in men and women differently. More research is needed to form a definitive conclusion, but scientists suspect the reason could be that women metabolize nicotine at a higher rate, that their DNA doesn't repair as quickly, or that their higher estrogen levels may have an impact.

Smokers likely don't need another study to tell them their habit is dangerous. But it's important to note that the longer these women smoked, the higher their risk. The sooner women quit smoking, the better their chances for not developing squamous cell carcinoma.




H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute. "Smoking is strongly associated with squamous cell carcinoma among women." Web. ScienceDaily, Dec 8, 2011. "Squamous Cell Carcinoma: The Second Most Common Skin Cancer." Skin Cancer Foundation. Web. 2011.