British researchers say people with smooth faces run a higher risk than those with wrinkles of developing the most common form of skin cancer.
Researchers at the University of Manchester in England found that people with relatively heavy wrinkling were 90 percent less likely to develop basal cell carcinoma -- a slow-growing, easily treatable cancer that often appears on the face.
That confirms what many dermatologists have observed, but it might surprise many non-experts: Wrinkles are often associated with sun exposure, and sun exposure raises the risk of skin cancer.
The findings do not mean people should feel free to become sun-worshippers, said Dr. Christopher Griffiths, one of the authors of the study, which appears in the Archives of Dermatology.
Sun exposure is strongly linked to other forms of skin cancer, including the deadliest: melanoma.
''People photo-age and get sun damage in different ways,'' said Griffiths, a dermatology professor at the University of Manchester. ''What this tells us is that you can get lots of sun exposure and no wrinkles and still get cancer.''
The study involved 118 white people over age 50 who visited a dermatology center at a Manchester hospital.
Griffiths said it is not clear why those with more wrinkles are less likely to get basal cell cancer, but the explanation may lie in how the skin repairs itself.