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Smokers with Autoimmune Disorder May Damage Skin

Posted: December 7, 2009

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"Even in healthy people, cigarette smoke has both immediate and long-term effects on the skin, its blood vessels and on hair follicles," she adds. "Exposure to tobacco promotes the release of cytokines, substances in the body that increase immune system activity and inflammation. In fact, some researchers believe that cigarette smoking is actually a risk factor for SLE in the first place."

The study underlines how vital it is for patients with SLE to remain smoke-free. "We already knew these people should not smoke, due to increased risk of adverse events like heart disease," Dr. Pineau says. "Now it appears we have another reason to emphasize smoking cessation. If we can convince people with SLE to stop smoking, we may be able to help them achieve better disease control, and better outcomes."

Dr. Christian A. Pineau is a researcher in the RI-MUHC musculoskeletal disorders axis, as well as co-director of the lupus and vasculitis clinic at the MUHC. He is also the rheumatology program director and assistant professor in the department of medicine at the McGill University Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Sasha Bernatsky is a researcher in the RI-MUHC musculoskeletal disorders axis, a physician in the rheumatology division and a member of the clinical epidemiology division at the MUHC. She is also an assistant professor in the department of medicine and an associate member in the department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health at the McGill University Faculty of Medicine.

This study was funded by a grant from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CHIR), the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec (FRSQ) and the Singer Family Fund for Lupus Research. This article was co-authored by Dr. Irina Turchin, division of dermatology, department of medicine; Dr. Sasha Bernatsky, division of rheumatology, department of medicine and division of clinical epidemiology, department of medicine, research institute; Dr. Ann E. Clarke; Mr. Yvan St-Pierre, division of clinical epidemiology, department of medicine, research institute, division of allergy and clinical immunology, department of medicine; and Dr. Christian A. Pineau, division of rheumatology, department of medicine.