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PLoS One. 2017 Jun 20;12(6):e0179330. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179330. eCollection 2017.

The association between various smoking behaviors, cotinine biomarkers and skin autofluorescence, a marker for advanced glycation end product accumulation.

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Department of Endocrinology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Scientific Computing, Epidemiology Section, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Weill Cornell Medical College, Doha, Qatar.
Department of Internal Medicine, Medical Center Leeuwarden, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.
Bioinformatics Core, Weill Cornell Medical College, Doha, Qatar.
Research Centre for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, Neuherberg, Germany.
Department of Dermatology, Hamad Medical Corporation, Doha, Qatar.
Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.



Skin autofluorescence, a biomarker for advanced glycation end products (AGEs) accumulation, has been shown to predict diabetes-related cardiovascular complications and is associated with several environmental and lifestyle factors. In the present study, we examined the association between various smoking behaviors and skin autofluorescence, as well as the association between several cotinine biomarkers and skin autofluorescence, using both epidemiological and metabolomics data.


In a cross-sectional study, we evaluated participants from the LifeLines Cohort Study and the Qatar Metabolomics Study on Diabetes (QMDiab). In the LifeLines Cohort Study smoking behavior and secondhand smoking were assessed in 8,905 individuals including 309 individuals (3.5%) with type 2 diabetes. In QMDiab, cotinine biomarkers were measured in saliva, plasma and urine in 364 individuals of whom 188 (51%) had type 2 diabetes. Skin autofluorescence was measured non-invasively in all participants using the AGE Reader.


Skin autofluorescence levels increased with a higher number of hours being exposed to secondhand smoking. Skin autofluorescence levels of former smokers approached levels of never smokers after around 15 years of smoking cessation. Urinary cotinine N-oxide, a biomarker of nicotine exposure, was found to be positively associated with skin autofluorescence in the QMDiab study (p = 0.03).


In the present study, we have demonstrated that secondhand smoking is associated with higher skin autofluorescence levels whereas smoking cessation has a beneficial effect on skin autofluorescence. Finally, urinary cotinine N-oxide might be used as an alternative way for questionnaires to examine the effect of (environmental) tobacco smoking on skin autofluorescence.

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