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Stop Smoking, for Vanity's Sake

August 19, 1993|THE WASHINGTON POST

If all the warnings about cancer, heart disease and stroke haven't been enough to scare you off cigarettes, consider this: Smoking makes you look older.

In a study of how well doctors and others can judge a patient's age, one fact stood out: People who appeared at least five years older than their age were much more likely to be smokers.

Two doctors at Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., studied how accurately a patient's age could be judged by physical appearance. They showed photographs of 27 outpatients (ages 22 to 75) to doctors, nurses and office staff and asked them to guess the patients' ages. The pictures showed neutral and smiling facial expressions and the backs of the hands.

The doctors, Elizabeth F. Sherertz and Suzanne P. Hess, reported their findings in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.

A few other factors also made people look older, though less dramatically. These included having fair skin that burns easily, engaging in outdoor activities without adequate sun protection and frequent drinking of alcoholic beverages.

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