FRIDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Smokers are at higher risk of developing the autoimmune skin condition psoriasis than nonsmokers, a new study finds, possibly because smoking pushes the body's immune system into overdrive, one expert suggests.
The research doesn't directly prove that smoking causes psoriasis, and the wide majority of smokers would avoid developing the condition even if they faced an increased risk.
Still, the findings provide yet another reason for smokers to drop the habit, said study co-author Dr. Abrar Qureshi, an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. "It behooves us even more to advise individuals who are smoking to quit," he said, especially because psoriasis itself is linked to higher risks of diabetes and heart attacks.
Psoriasis, which tends to occur in adulthood, causes itchy and painful patches of thick, scaly and reddened or whitened skin. The patches often appear on the knees and elbows.
The condition appears when the immune system mistakenly attacks skin cells. Treatments are available, but they may not keep psoriasis at bay forever.
Dermatologists have wondered whether smoking makes psoriasis worse, Qureshi said. In the new study, investigators examined research projects that followed more than 185,000 medical professionals in the United States for as long as two decades. They looked specifically at 2,410 people who'd been diagnosed with psoriasis.
After adjusting their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by high or low numbers of people who were overweight or had other risk factors for psoriasis, the researchers found that current smokers were about 1.9 times more likely to have psoriasis than nonsmokers. Past smokers were nearly 1.4 times more likely to have the condition.
The study found a "graded reduction of risk" as time passed after a participant had quit smoking.
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