Skin cancer is the most common cancer among South Africans, and while the two main forms – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – are rarely deadly, researchers say they are on the rise.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Nottingham in England pooled the available evidence on the link between tobacco and basal and squamous cell cancers, which start in the outer layer of the skin.

Based on 14 previous studies, smokers didn’t appear to have higher rates of basal cell cancer. But they did have a 52-percent increase in their risk of squamous cell cancer, based on six studies that varied in size, duration and design.

That extra risk is similar to that of ultraviolet radiation, the most well-known risk factor for squamous cell cancer, according to a commentary published along with the new results in the Archives of Dermatology.

Because all of the studies are based on observations, it’s impossible to say for certain whether smoking caused the increase in skin cancer risk. While current smokers had a higher risk than former smokers, there was no link with the number of cigarettes smoked per day or how long a person had been smoking.

The study also found that smokers don’t seem to be at increased risk for melanoma. In fact, some studies have suggested they might even have a smaller chance of getting the disease – although scientists are still trying to figure out if that’s really true.

Source: Reuters Health

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