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Clinician's Corner
November 22/29, 2006

Potential for Genetics to Promote Public Health: Genetics Research on Smoking Suggests Caution About Expectations

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program (Dr Carlsten), and Department of Medical History and Ethics (Dr Burke), University of Washington, Seattle.

JAMA. 2006;296(20):2480-2482. doi:10.1001/jama.296.20.2480

The number of DNA-based tests available for use in clinical care has rapidly increased over the past decade, and this trend has implications for public health and preventive medicine. In the 1990s, Coughlin1 described an “emerging paradigm of disease prevention—the identification and modification of environmental risk factors among persons susceptible to disease due to genotype.” This optimistic vision of genetically based prevention was applied to lung cancer when Collins introduced “John,” who joins a support group of persons at genetically high risk of complications of smoking and thereby kicks the habit.2 Yet a closer look raises questions about public health and research priorities.3

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