Heavy smoking could cause faces to look older

In a new study, researchers found “smoker’s Face,” a condition where smokers look older than they are, is just one of many negative effects caused by heavy tobacco usage.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Bristol and elsewhere.

Some people carry one or two copies of a genetic variant that is linked to heavier tobacco use.

To identify the effects of the heavier smoking, scientists can separate out the effects of the genetic variant via tobacco use from other possible effects associated with carrying that variant that is unrelated to tobacco use.

To simultaneously identify these two types of effects, the researchers used a novel combination of two data analysis approaches and applied them using data from people in the UK Biobank.

They separated people into two groups. The first contained people who had never smoked and the second included current and former smokers.

The researchers reasoned that the smoking group would reveal the effects of tobacco exposure, while the never-smokers would show them any unrelated effects of the genetic variant.

The analysis searched across 18,000 traits and apart from the new finding of more rapid facial aging, also identified several previously reported effects of smoking, confirming the method’s effectiveness.

The known effects of smoking that the analysis identified included worse lung function and a higher risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and skin cancer.

The team says their novel approach can be used to search for causal effects of health exposures and to search for the effects of smoking heaviness.

As well as identifying several known adverse effects such as on lung health, the method also identified an adverse effect of heavier smoking on facial aging.

The lead author of the study is Louise Millard.

The study is published in PLOS Genetics.

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