Heavy alcohol consumption and smoking are associated with the development of visible age-related signs, according to results of a prospective Danish cohort study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The objective of the current study was to investigate whether alcohol use and smoking are linked with the following 4 age-related signs: arcus corneae, xanthelasmata, earlobe crease, and male pattern baldness. A total of 11,613 participants (6462 women, 5151 men; mean age, 51.5 years [range, 21 to 86 years] and 51.0 years [range, 21 to 93 years], respectively) were enrolled between 1976 and 2003 in the Copenhagen City Heart Study, a prospective cardiovascular study of the Danish general population.

Arcus corneae was the most common age-related sign in both men and women, with a prevalence of 60% for men >70 years and women >80 years. The prevalence of earlobe crease was low but increased steadily until around 80 years of age. Xanthelasmata was the least common visible age-related sign, with a prevalence of approximately 5% in both men and women >50 years of age. Regarding male pattern baldness, frontoparietal baldness was reported more often than crown top baldness, with >80% of men >40 years of age presenting with frontoparietal baldness.


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In women who consumed ≥28 alcoholic drinks/week vs those consuming 1 to <7 drinks/week, the hazard ratio (HR) for development of arcus corneae was 1.33 (95% CI, 0.93-1.90). In men who consumed ≥35 alcoholic drinks/week vs those consuming 1 to <7 drinks/week, the HR for development of arcus corneae was 1.35 (95% CI, 1.14-1.61). Among women and men who smoked 15 to <30 pack-years vs never-smokers, the HRs for arcus corneae developing were 1.41 (95% CI, 1.25-1.61) and 1.12 (95% CI, 0.92-1.36), respectively.

In women and men, the HRs for earlobe crease developing when consuming 21 to <28 drinks/week vs 1 to <7 drinks/week were 1.36 (95% CI, 0.99-1.88) and 1.26 (95% CI, 1.02-1.56), respectively. Among women and men smoking 30 to <45 pack-years vs never-smokers, HRs for earlobe crease developing were 1.26 (95% CI, 1.07-1.48) and 1.30 (95% CI, 1.05-1.61), respectively.

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The association between alcohol intake and xanthelasmata was not significant in either gender. Among women and men who smoked ≥45 pack-years vs never-smokers, however, the HRs for xanthelasmata developing were 1.46 (95% CI, 0.74-2.89) and 2.03 (95% CI, 1.17-3.52), respectively.

Alcohol consumption was not associated with male pattern baldness. However, the HR for crown top baldness among men who had smoked >45 pack-years was 0.68 (95% CI, 0.50-0.94), suggesting that smoking is associated with a decreased risk for balding.

The investigators concluded that heavy alcohol use and smoking are associated with looking generally older than one’s actual age. Low-to-moderate alcohol consumption was not linked with any visible age-related signs.

Reference

Schou AL, Mølbak ML, Schnor P, Grønbæk M, Tolstrup JS. Alcohol consumption, smoking and development of visible age-related signs: a prospective cohort study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017;71(12):1177-1184.