Smokers' Acne Face

Author: Elio F. Gagliano, MD
Article Published: 26/09/2007

Women who smoke are more likely to develop a form of non-inflammatory acne (NIA) than are those who do not.

Bruno Capitanio and his team at the San Gallicano Dermatological Institute in Rome announced, in an article published in the British Journal of Dermatology (Female smokers 'risk spotty face') that they have found "a new entity among smoking-related cutaneous diseases". The team stated that women who smoke are more likely to develop a form of non-inflammatory acne (NIA) than are those who do not. Such a conclusion was drawn from a study of 1,000 women, among whom less than 30% were smokers.  Of the smokers 42.2% of them had acne, compared with 10% of non-smokers.

If my calculation is correct, we have
  • 700 non smoking women, 70 of whom had acne.
  • 300 smoking women, 120 of whom had acne.

Of those two groups, we know nothing relating to hormonal status, nutritional status, social level. We don’t know if they were housewives or workers nor do we know the households' or working places' environmental factors. We do not even know their age, whether they were skinny or obese or in between, if they were living in a small or big city, which cosmetics they used (most women do use cosmetics on their faces) and so forth and so on.


Considering the enormous lack of data and the small number of subjects under study, would any serious epidemiologist draw the conclusion that “The study fitted into a trend of linking smoking with acne” as stated by Colin Holden, president of the British Association of Dermatologists? Would they dub it "smokers' acne face" as Rome’s authors did?


I doubt it. The same authors doubt it too, otherwise they wouldn’t have said, at the end of the article: “Other factors have however already been identified in the development of NIA, including hormonal alterations, stress, occupational and environmental factors”.



In doing so, they saved their faces in front of epidemiologists and dermatologists, as their theory doesn’t hold water. But, the main purpose was reached: their curriculum has been enriched by a publication in the British Journal of Dermatology and, from the point of view of whoever financed the study, another tile has been added to the variegated mosaic of smoking related diseases.

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