Study indicates incidence of Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) appears to be doubled among smokers

A recent study* published in the British Journal of Dermatology has found that incidence of Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) appears to be doubled among tobacco smokers.

The researchers examined healthcare data and identified nearly 4 million tobacco smokers and over 8 million non‐smokers. The incidence of HS was 0.20% among smokers and 0.11% among non‐smokers – smokers were shown to be virtually twice as likely to have HS.

The incidence of HS was greatest among smokers who were aged 30–39 years (0.35%), women (0.28%), African Americans (0.46%), and those with BMI of 30 or above.

What is Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

HS is a chronic, recurring inflammatory disease of the hair follicles. The condition involves the abnormal blockage of hair follicles in areas where certain sweat glands (apocrine glands) are located, and is characterised by the development of painful nodules, abscesses, sinus tracts and scarring in the axillae, groin, inner thighs, under the breasts and pubic regions.

While the cause remains unclear, research points to an immunological abnormality.

Significance of this research study

This latest study is important because it uses a very large and diverse population-based sample of patients across all the census regions in the United States to determine the incidence of HS among smokers and compare rates of HS in non‐smokers.

The authors suggest their findings that smoking is associated with a twofold increase in the incidence of HS, may support evidence‐based counselling to help people at risk of HS to give up smoking.

Skin Matters Meeting for people with HS, Dublin and Online

The ISF, supported by AbbVie, is running the first-of-its-kind ‘Skin Matters’ event for anyone affected by HS on 1 November next. You can join in-person or online and participate in a discussion among a panel of medical experts as well as people living with or caring for someone with HS. More information here. 

On-going research

The association between smoking and HS is well established.  Smoking has been identified as a risk factor for the development of HS and the severity of the condition, and may influence response to treatment.

However, many questions remain and researchers are working to untangle and determine the exact relationship between smoking and HS. What is known more conclusively is that people with HS are far more likely to be smokers.

*Garg A, Papagermanos V, Midura M, Strunk A. Incidence of hidradenitis suppurativa among tobacco smokers: a population-based retrospective analysis in the U.S.A. British Journal of Dermatology 2018, 178: 709-714. DOI 10.1111/bjd.15939


For more information about Hidradenitis Suppurativa, visit our main HS page here.  If you need help or guidance about managing your HS, contact the ISF Helpline here.

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