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Understanding genetic cancer risk might not help smokers kick the habit

DURHAM, N.C. -- If smokers knew that they were genetically susceptible to smoking-related cancers, would this knowledge help them stop smoking? New research from Duke University Medical Center shows that in an older, inner-city African-American population the answer is mixed. Smokers who knew they were genetically susceptible to smoking-related cancers were no more likely to quit smoking than those who found out they were not susceptible.

However, this lack of responsiveness to knowledge of genetic susceptibility is not completely a bad thing, said Colleen McBride, Ph.D., study leader and director of the Cancer Prevention, Detection and Control Program at Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"We were concerned that telling smokers that they were not genetically susceptible might undermine their motivation to quit smoking and that was not the case. Unfortunately, being susceptible wasn't strong enough to motivate them to quit either," McBride said.

The study published in the July 2002 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention examined 557 African-American smokers with low incomes from an inner-city community health clinic.

"We chose this group to test our intervention because quit rates are lowest among those with a low income," said McBride. "And, African-Americans bear a much greater health burden of smoking than whites. We know that many smokers quit because they are afraid of the health risks. We thought if we personalized that risk for people in our study, that it might convince them to quit smoking."

The researchers randomized the smokers into two groups. The first group of 185 participants received counseling about smoking cessation, a self-help smoking cessation guide and nicotine replacement therapy as appropriate. The second group of 372, received the counseling, guide and nicotine replacement therapy, but also agreed to take a blood test for a gene (GSTM1) that is linked to increased risk for lung cancer
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Contact: Amy Austell
amy.austell@duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
5-Jul-2002


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