Do genes play a role when a smoker attempts to quit?

A new study shows a person’s genetic makeup may play a role when trying to quit smoking.

One woman’s struggle

Lauren Auchter started smoking when she was 19 years old.  “I don’t really remember my first cigarette,” she said.  “I feel like I have always been a smoker.”

The 50 year old truck driver says she has tried to quit at least six times and every time she ends up lighting another one up.

“I’ve made it three months before, but in the end I always go back to it,” she said.  “Smoking just feels like a part of who I am now.”

New information

For people like Auchter, a new study may help her kick the habit for good.  The study, done by Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center , shows a person’s genetic makeup should dictate what quit smoking aid should be used to have the best shot at permanently quitting.

The study

“This study provides new evidence that genetic differences in the brain-reward pathways of smokers may reveal whether they would benefit more from Zyban or nicotine replacement therapy as an aid to quitting smoking,” said lead author Professor Caryn Lerman, PhD, Associate Director for Cancer Control Population Sciences at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.

Participants were given Zyban or a nictoine patch to help them quit smoking.  During that time researchers watched how their brains reacted. 

The results

Patients responded differently to the treatments depending on their genetic makeup.

“Although these results require confirmation in a larger study prior to translation to practice,” said Lerman, “they do suggest that genetic information may be useful in selecting the type of nicotine dependence treatment that will be most beneficial for a particular smoker.”

Smoker’s response

For Auchter, the study is good news.   She has tried the nicotine patch several times while trying to quit.  After hearing about the study she would like to see a simple test or questionnaire help smoker’s find the right option for them.

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