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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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Genetics May Personalize Quit-Smoking Methods

Study Shows Genetic Profile May Help Smokers Individualize Their Smoking-Cessation Therapy
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 7, 2010 -- A new, personalized approach to quitting smoking may one day help boost success rates by taking some of the guesswork out of matching smokers with available tools.

New research in the July-August issue of Molecular Medicine shows that your genetic profile combined with your level of nicotine dependence can help guide treatment decisions and maximize your chances of kicking the habit for good.

As any former smoker or wannabe former smoker can attest, quitting smoking is not easy. Fully 70% of 46 million U.S. smokers say they want to kick the habit, yet less than 5% who try to do so cold turkey are successful after a year. When a smoker uses available smoking-cessation tools such as nicotine patches, gum, inhalers, or medications, their success rate can increase to less than 25%.

"There are nicotine replacement therapies such as gum, patches, lozenges, and prescription aids, but there is very little guidance as to which is best and for whom," says study researcher Jed E. Rose, PhD, director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research in Durham, N.C. "Different treatments will work differently for different smokers, and this is the first step toward being able to predict which treatments would be more successful in which smokers."

Scanning for Genetic Markers

The researchers scanned 520,000 genetic blood markers of smokers participating in several studies. Using this genetic information, they created a "quit success score" or a number that can be combined with a smoker's level of nicotine dependence to help predict whether a 42-miiligram/24-hour nicotine patch or a 21-milligram/24-hour nicotine patch is best suited. Nicotine dependence was assessed via questionnaire.

They tested this on 479 smokers with at least a half-a-pack-a-day habit who wanted to quit. Participants were categorized as having a high or low dependence on nicotine. Individuals with a high dependence and low "quit scores" based on their genetic profile did better with the high-dose patch, the study showed. By comparison, individuals with a low dependence on nicotine can quit using the lower-dose patch.

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