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J Community Genet. 2011 Sep;2(3):165-72. doi: 10.1007/s12687-011-0053-1.

Young smokers' views of genetic susceptibility testing for lung cancer risk: minding unintended consequences.

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  • 1Duke University School of Nursing.


Assessment of smokers' responses to individualized feedback of genetic susceptibility has shown little or no influence on smoking cessation outcomes. One explanation is that smokers may be having unintended responses that undermine the feedback's motivational impact (e.g., fatalism or downplaying risk). In preparation for a large randomized trial with college smokers, we conducted a qualitative pilot study to explore smokers' motives for genetic testing and how these motives might influence interpretation of genetic risk feedback.Prior to reviewing informational materials describing a test for the glutathione S-transferase M1 gene, 33 college smokers (18 to 21 years) participated in a 30 minute, semi-structured, open-ended interview regarding their attitudes on health risks, genetic testing in general, genetic testing for lung cancer risk, and informational needs regarding genetics and genetic testing for lung cancer risk.Two central themes emerged from analysis of the interviews: general impressions of genetic testing and perceived value of genetic testing. Prominent in the second theme was the finding that genetic risk feedback may be unsuccessful in motivating quitting a) due to skepticism about genetic tests, b) participants dismissing genetic feedback as personally irrelevant, and c) participants receiving low risk results justifying continued smoking in light of public health messages that "it's never too late to quit". These findings require careful consideration among health professionals looking to genetic risk feedback as a vehicle to motivate disease prevention or behavior change.


Genetic testing; Qualitative methods; Risk communication; Smoking cessation

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