January 26, 2006
A new study suggests genetics might play more of a role in your health than previously thought, especially if you smoke.
"I use to smoke a pack, maybe two packs a day, but now I probably smoke maybe half a pack," said smoker Elwin Brice.
Elwin Brice is 27-years-old and has been smoking off-and-on for 12 years and says he knows he should quit.
"I quit for eight months, and then you know I started back," said Brice.
New research may provide him some extra motivation. It seems Brice's risk of getting lung cancer is higher than others, simply because he's African American. Brice was surprised to hear it.
The study looked at five ethnicities and found African American smokers faced the highest risk of lung cancer, followed by native Hawaiins, Whites, Japanese Americans and then Latinos.
One theory behind it is that genetic differences may cause some races to absorb more of the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes.
"The problem is figuring out how each one of us--who is a mixture of different groups of people from all over the world--how we actually express disease, how we catch disease and how we're able to overcome it," said Paul Lombardo, a Bioethicist , University of Virginia.
Lombardo believes race will continue to be used for medical reasons but his hope is that doctors will gravitate towards biological markers that are often more precise.
"I think that the way that people who are African Americans or Hawaiian or Latino or anything else should take this study in the most simple way--don't smoke," said Lombardo.
The study involved more than 180,000 smokers, who filled out questionnaires about their smoking habits, diet and other personal information.