The less ozone, the more UVB and skin cancer

And did you know that cigarette smoke breaks down your connective tissue?

It is well known that the influence of ultraviolet radiation can cause skin aging such as wrinkles, pigment spots and skin cancer. But air pollution also contributes to this…

Exposure to particulate matter, ozone, hydrocarbons….

Our skin is exposed daily to air pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), volatile organic compounds (VOC), oxides, particulate matter (FS), ozone (O3) and cigarette smoke. Although human skin has a barrier to chemical and physical air pollutants, prolonged or repeated exposure to high levels of these substances can have serious negative effects on the skin.

From wrinkles, to acne, eczema and skin cancer

The protective capacity of the skin is not unlimited. Problems arise when abnormal exposure to environmental stressors arises and the skin’s normal defense capabilities are no longer sufficient. Depending on the nature of the air pollutants and the skin barrier, these substances penetrate the skin and thus contribute to accelerated skin aging, inflammatory reactions or allergic conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne and skin cancer.

What effects do all those substances and radiation have on our skin?
Ultraviolet sun rays

The ultraviolet radiation from the sun consists of three types of radiation: UVA (320-400 nm), UVB (280-320 nm) and UVC (180-280 nm). More than 95% of the solar UVR that reaches the Earth’s surface is UVA. UVB is
1-5%, while most of the UVC is absorbed by the ozone layer. UVA is overdag het hele jaar door met een relatief gelijke intensiteit aanwezig, en dringt door wolken en ramen heen. The intensity of UVB depends on the season, location in the world and time of day. More about UVA, UVB sunrays

Influence of changes in the ozone layer

Small changes in the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other industrially produced substances that deplete the ozone layer affect the penetration of shorter wavelengths such as ultraviolet (UVA, UVB) at ground level. For every 1% decrease in ozone there is a 2% increase in UVB radiation and therefore a 2% increase in skin cancer is predicted.

The effects of ultraviolet radiation on the skin depend on the wavelength. UVA is involved in skin aging (A for aging) and penetrates deep into the basal layer of the epidermis and dermal fibroblasts.

DNA damage from UVB – as a result of combustion

UVB is largely absorbed in the upper epidermal skin layer and causes direct DNA damage. Burning is a sign of DNA damage!

Both UVA and UVB are involved in the development of skin cancers such as malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

UVA + environmental pollutants = skin aging

There is increasing evidence that UVA radiation in combination with environmental pollutants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from coal, fuel, burning food (barbecuing) and cigarette smoke, can cause skin aging.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) = oxidative stress – can lead to skin cancer

PAHs are among the most common organic pollutants. The main source of atmospheric PAH is wood burning. The main source of atmospheric PAH is wood burning.

Below you will find an overview of the different PAHs:

  1. Naphthalene
  2. Anthracene
  3. Phenanthrene
  4. Fluorantene
  5. Benzo(a)antracene
  6. Chryseen
  7. Benzo(k)fluorantene
  8. Benzo(a)pyrene
  9. Benzo(ghi)perylene
  10. Indeno(1,2,3 cd)pyrene
  11. 2,3,7,8-Tetrachloordibenzo-p-dioxine (TCDD)

PAHs are absorbed through your hair follicles

In an animal experiment, skin pigment was generated by PAHs, instead of by UV radiation. It turns out that the skin can absorb it through the hair follicles and transepidermally – so through the skin. It leads to oxidative stress in the skin, and thus to accelerated skin aging. PAHs have also been implicated in the development of skin cancer in animal studies. PAH metabolites, such as epoxides and diols, bind to DNA and can cause skin tumors.

Chlorine acne from exposure to PAHs

PAHs can also cause chloracne. This is a rare occurrence of acne that manifests itself with many blackheads, cysts. Severe chlorine poisoning can also cause liver disorders. Dioxin in particular causes enormous damage to the skin. This substance is formed during waste incineration, metal production, and fossil fuels and wood burning. Ukrainian politician Viktor Yuschenko was poisoned with it.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) = precancerous skin cancer and eczema

Originated from organic solvents in paints, vehicle refinishing, environmental tobacco smoke, stored fuels, automobile exhaust (e.g. benzene) and emissions from industrial facilities (e.g. tetrachloroethylene).

VOCs (ingestion of hexachlorobenzene) can cause precancerous skin lesions in rats.

An increase in inflammatory substances was observed in cultured keratinocytes exposed to VOCs. These substances may be involved in the development of inflammatory and/or allergic reactions such as atopic dermatitis or eczema.

Fine dust (FD) = pigment spots + wrinkles

Particulate matter (PM) are particles of different size and composition in the air. The main components are metals, organic compounds, material of biological origin and reactive gases. Particles from traffic are regarded as the most harmful components of particulate matter.

Due to the special physical properties of those substances, it can induce oxidative stress in human skin, which contributes to skin aging. A study showed a demonstrable relationship between skin aging symptoms such as pigment disorders and wrinkles and exposure to particulate matter.

Eczema in areas with high air pollution

Atopic dermatitis has been steadily on the rise in Europe over the past few decades and a number of studies indicate that it is more common in children living in areas with high levels of air pollution. Most air pollutants act as non-specific irritants and affect the immune system.

An East and West German comparative study showed that the incidence of atopic dermatitis was higher in East Germany due to sulfuric pollution. And there was a strong relationship with atopic eczema when exposed to nitrous oxide indoors and in close proximity to heavy traffic.

The effects of traffic-related air pollution and climatic factors on eczema in high school students was also assessed in Taiwan. There it was shown that eczema in the elbow creases was associated with traffic-related air pollution in combination with low humidity.

Cigarette smoke breaks down connective tissue

Cigarette smoke is a very complex aerosol consisting of thousands of chemicals, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), reactive nitrogen species and electrophilic aldehydes, carcinogens, such as benzo[a]pyrene and 4-(methylnitrosoamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)- 1-butanone (NNK), as well as a large amount of oxygen radical-forming substances, such as catechol.

Reactive oxidants and free radicals from cigarette smoke can break down the fats around cell membranes in your body. This process is called lipid peroxidation. This also causes DNA damage.

Smoking, Ozone, Skin Aging

Smoking is correlated with deeper wrinkles due to breakdown of connective tissue in the skin and premature aging of facial skin. Heavy smokers are 4.7 times more likely to develop wrinkles than non-smokers. This is independent of sun exposure. However, the combination of smoking and sun exposure can have a synergistic effect on premature skin aging.

Smoking and psoriasis

A recent meta-analysis study of 146,934 psoriasis patients suggested that smoking is an independent risk factor for developing psoriasis. And men with psoriasis who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day have more psoriasis patches on their extremities.

Smoking and acne

Smokers are more likely to have acne. A relationship has also been shown between the severity of acne and the amount of cigarettes smoked.

More keratinization of the skin due to nicotine

Cigarette smoke causes a heavier cornification of the upper skin layer. Nicotine in particular is the culprit. Nicotine can also cause blackheads to form through the stimulation of the nicotine ACh receptor on epidermal keratinocytes (the outer layer of skin, or dead skin cells).

Formation of blackheads and inflammation in them

In addition, smoking releases pro-inflammatory cytokines (inflammation-promoting substances), resulting in inflammation in the blackheads. Smoking is also associated with squamous cell carcinoma (PCC), while the link between smoking and BCC and melanoma remains controversial.

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Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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