Most people know that smoking causes cancer, heart attack, lung disease and impotence. Now, a study on Asian men has revealed that cigarettes also lead to baldness.
Male-pattern baldness runs in families and is influenced by male sex hormones and some environmental factors such as diet and stress. Researchers are now saying that smoking also causes hair loss by lowering the supply of blood to the hair follicles.
In fact, so strong is the impact of smoking on hair health that it even causes hair loss in Asian men, who are genetically less likely to go bald than white Caucasian men, report researchers in the journal Archives of Dermatology.
“The findings are not surprising. It’s well established that smoking causes the blood vessels to constrict, lowering the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Here, too, the hair follicles are being deprived of oxygen and nutrition,” says Dr R.R. Kasliwal, senior consultant cardiologist, Apollo Hospital.
Scientists studied 740 Taiwanese men with an average age of 65. After gathering information about the age at which they started losing their hair, their smoking history and their height and weight, as well as taking blood samples, they found cigarettes led to significantly more hair loss even after taking other factors into account.
“After controlling for age and family history, statistically significant positive associations were noted between moderate or severe pale-pattern baldness and smoking status,” said Dr Lin-hui Su of the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital in Taiwan.
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Apart from cancer, smoking is also a major risk factor in chronic bronchitis, heart disease and stroke, and other disorders such as slowed healing of wounds, impotence, infertility, and peptic ulcer disease.
Tobacco is the second biggest cause of death in the world, according to the Word Health Organisation. It currently kills about 5 million people — one in 10 adult deaths — each year globally. Half the people that smoke or consume tobacco in other forms today — about 650 million people — will eventually be killed by their habit, says the WHO.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, tobacco use is responsible for over 10 lakh deaths each year — about 2,800 people every day. Some 250 million people use tobacco in some form or the other. Apart from the smoked forms (cigarettes, bidis and cigars), several smokeless forms of consumption exist and they account for 40 per cent of the total tobacco consumption.