New Penn study uses genetics to help smokers stop

November 18, 2010 5:48:15 PM PST
The Great American Smokeout is a time to get smokers thinking about quitting. And now there is more help than ever for those trying to break the habit.

And those resources include a brand-new study at the University of Pennsylvania, looking at how genetics play a role.

Judy Keightly, of Feasterville, Bucks County, says it's no surprise she started smoking as a teenager. Nearly all of her family and friends smoked.

Judy recalls, "I was raised by a single mother. When I went to visit my father, he asked if I smoked yet - and here, would you like a cigarette?"

But when she became a nurse, she saw the damage cigarettes could do, so she tried to quit.

She rattles off the ways: "I had tried the patch, the gum, the lozenge, something done to my ear, counseling."

But the addiction was too strong.

"I'd go to the store in a blizzard for a cigarette. I'd count, i'd say there's only 3 left, I have to go to the store. So I'd go to the store in my pajamas," she admits.

Experts say nicotine changes your brain, and those changes vary according to your genetics.

" Some people may have very little trouble quitting the first time they try, some

body else may try over and over again for years, and have a lot of difficulty," says Caryn Lerman, Ph.D., who is leading a new study.

That study, which is now seeking volunteers, is looking at a biomarker in the blood, to predict which treatment will work for which person.

Dr. Lerman notes, "In four past studies, the evidence is that this biomarker can predict success."

And that will help smoking cessation specialists develop more personalized quitting plans.

Judy finally broke out of what she called her "cigarette prison" 2 years ago, by seeing a specialist, who prescribed a combination of the patch, gum, pills, and counseling.

She urges anyone wanting to quit not to give up.

"Try again, try again," she advises.

For more information on the Quit For Life study, call 1-888-68-I-Quit, or 1-888-684-7848.


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