Smoker’s Face – a condition where smokers look older than they are, is just one of many negative effects caused by heavy tobacco usage, researchers have warned.
"We searched across thousands of traits to identify those that may be affected by how heavily someone smokes. As well as identifying several known adverse effects such as on lung health, we also identified an adverse effect of heavier smoking on facial aging," said study author Louise Millard from the University of Bristol in UK.
According to the study, published in the journal PLOS Genetics, some people carry one or two copies of a genetic variant that is associated with heavier 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 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 higher risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and skin cancer.
Besides emphasising smoking’s many dangers, the study also serves as proof of principle that these data analysis tools can be used to identify effects of other exposures of interest, such as alcohol intake.