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Eye (Lond). 2012 Jan;26(1):109-18. doi: 10.1038/eye.2011.256. Epub 2011 Oct 28.

Can genetic risk information for age-related macular degeneration influence motivation to stop smoking? A pilot study.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK.



Smoking can increase the risk of macular degeneration and this is more than additive if a person also has a genetic risk. The purpose of this study was to examine whether knowledge of genetic risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) could influence motivation to quit smoking.


A questionnaire-based study of hypothetical case scenarios given to 49 smokers without AMD. Participants were randomly allocated to a generic risk, high genetic risk, or low genetic risk of developing AMD scenario.


Forty-seven percent knew of the link between smoking and eye disease. In all, 76%, 67%, and 46% for the high risk, generic, and low risk groups, respectively, would rethink quitting (P for trend = 0.082). In all, 67%, 40%, and 38.5%, respectively, would be likely, very likely, or would definitely quit in the following month (P for trend = 0.023). Few participants (<16% of any group) were very likely to or would definitely attend a quit smoking session with no difference across groups. In all, 75.5% of participants would consider taking a genetic test for AMD.


In this pilot study, a trend was seen for the group given high genetic risk information to be more likely to quit than the generic or low genetic risk groups. Participants were willing to take a genetic test but further work is needed to address the cost benefits of routine genetic testing for risk of AMD. More generic risk information should be given to the public, and health warnings on cigarette packets that 'smoking causes blindness' is a good way to achieve this.

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